Forecast sees snowy March for Aspen ski areas | PostIndependent.com

Forecast sees snowy March for Aspen ski areas

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times

Old Man Winter has tossed Aspen some curves this season. When it’s been wet, it’s been really wet (remember the first three weeks of January?), and when it’s been dry, it’s been really dry (or sometimes warm and rainy).

But late February and March will bring some semblance of balance to the winter weather Aspen typically experiences, according to Aspen Weather, a micro-forecasting firm.

Aspen Weather meteorologist Cory Gates sees the weather pattern becoming unsettled and colder starting in late February and continuing through March, according to his business partner, Ryan Boudreau.

Aspenweather.net is a subscription service that provides forecasts geared toward skiers and riders in the winters and people pursuing all sorts of outdoor recreation in the summers. It also provides forecasts for Aspen and the downvalley towns.

March is typically one of Aspen’s snowier months and this year won’t disappoint, according to Aspen Weather. Gates is forecasting between 60 and 70 inches of snow for the month, according to Boudreau.

“He has a really good feeling — a really cocky feeling about it,” Boudreau said.

While February started off dry, it turned wetter this week. By the time the month is in the books, the ski slopes will likely have received about an average amount of snow, between 40 and 50 inches, Boudreau said.

Looking further ahead, Gates is forecasting an average April, Boudreau said. “Is winter going to hang out through May? He doesn’t think so,” he added.

Spot on about January

Gates boldly goes where few meteorologists go when making winter forecasts during the fall. At a party hosted by Aspen Weather at the Limelight Hotel in September, Gates forecasted 368 inches of snow at the upper reaches of Snowmass Ski Area between Oct. 1 and early May. He also foresaw 337 inches at Aspen Mountain and 353 inches at Aspen Highlands. No cumulative snowfall was forecast for Buttermilk.

“We will hit our numbers,” Boudreau declared this week, after going over Gates’ outlook for the remainder of the winter.

While the numbers might end up as Gates expected, it won’t be how he expected. In the pre-season party, Gates told a couple of hundred people that he saw a strong start to the season, with heavy snow in November and a favorable December.

November ended up being dreadfully dry, with Aspen Mountain unable to open on Thanksgiving Day. The first half of December was dry, but a 19-inch dump on Dec. 17 turned the season around.

Gates was spot on when he forecasted that Aspen’s ski areas would get “creamed” in January. The upper slopes of Snowmass and Aspen Highlands received just shy of 90 inches of snow, well above their average.

AccuWeather concurs

In September, Gates said he saw good late-season snow. That’s consistent with his updated outlook this week.

Regarding Gates, Boudreau said, “Everything he said would happen has happened.”

“He said he was wrong about November,” he added. “It took a while for winter to set up.”

AccuWeather, a private sector forecaster, concurs with Aspen Weather’s forecast for the remainder of the season. AccuWeather senior meteorologist Dave Samuhel said March should bring average weather to Colorado’s Central Mountains.

“I think it’s still going to be a pretty good month for you guys,” he said.

The chances for precipitation are favorable, Samuhel said. It’s tougher to tell with temperatures, though AccuWeather forecasted generally “chilly” conditions into spring for a large block of the Intermountain West and Northern Plains into spring. Warm and dry conditions were forecasted into spring for Southern California, most of Arizona and New Mexico, and most of Texas. Four Corners and Central Colorado are in a transition zone.

Temperatures in March and, thus, the type of precipitation, all boil down to whether the jet stream stays north or sags south of the Aspen area, Samuhel said.

“Overall, I see it pretty favorable,” he said of March.

April should be a typical month, with the spigot getting turned off later in the month, then warm and dry conditions prevailing in May, he said.


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