It’s dumping in Vail this season |

It’s dumping in Vail this season

NWS Record Snow DT 2-8-11

VAIL, Colorado – It’s been a snowy season, and many accounts rank this season as one of the snowiest in Vail’s history.

Vail Mountain has counted 41 inches in the last seven days alone, making powder days seem like the norm. Those who have been around long enough to compare this year to seasons in the 20th century can’t remember a season any better.

“I can’t remember any year that had any better conditions,” said Vail pioneer Rod Slifer, who has 37 days on the mountain so far this season. “I think it’s one of the better years.”

Vail Mountain already has 44 inches logged for the month of February and it’s not even Valentine’s Day yet. The average for this time of year is 20.35 inches, meaning this month’s tally is sitting pretty at 216 percent of average.

There have already been four powder days with 10 or more inches of new snow – the yearly average is 2.4 days.

Beaver Creek has counted three powder days with 10 or more inches – its yearly average is 2.2 days.

“Conditions are pretty phenomenal right now,” said Beaver Creek spokeswoman Jen Brown.

While the mountains measure snow depth, the National Resources Conservation Service measures how much water is actually in the snow that has fallen. Michael Gillespie, Colorado’s snow survey supervisor, said the moisture in the snowpack as of Thursday is 16.7 inches, or 115 percent of average.

The amount of moisture in the snow, or the snow water equivalent as the conservation service calls it, puts this season in ninth place since 1979, the year the service began keeping records.

“Depth and water are closely related – not exact, but pretty close,” Gillespie said.

Favorable weather patterns

The southern portion of the state, around the San Juan Mountain Range, is the bearer of bad news this winter. It’s a La Nina year, meaning storms tend to come in from the north and favor the northern part of the state, said Joel Gratz, a meteorologist who started

“Looking at historical data and La Nina years, Vail does correlate pretty well with above-average snowfall,” Gratz said.

And while La Nina might have something to do with the snow accumulations this season, Gratz thinks Vail has also just been lucky the last few weeks.

“It’s good to talk averages, but it’s really just the nuances of each storm,” Gratz said. “Vail’s just been in the right place at the right time to get the goods.”

The recent storms coming in from the north have followed a storm track that just grazed the northern part of Colorado. Had the storms come in even 100 miles east of where they did, we’d still be sitting around waiting for a powder day, he said.

Gillespie said all of northern Colorado is doing great with about 130 percent of average in terms of snow water equivalent right now.

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