Don’t count winter out yet
Ryan Summerlin March 18, 2012
Although the official start of spring is only days away, Summit County is accustomed to at least a few extra weeks, and sometimes months, of unofficial winter.
But the 2011-12 season has been unusually dry and now weather forecasters say it’s unclear whether Summit County will get the spring snowstorms that traditionally supply local resorts with powder through April and sustain Arapahoe Basin into the summer.
Summit County could get its first dusting of fresh snow in more than a week tonight, but the storm doesn’t have much potential for moisture and is expected to clear out by mid-week, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service in Boulder.
“Historically, you can still get a big storm through March and even through April, so there’s still the potential there,” NWS meteorologist Scott Entrekin said. “But at least after this first (system) moves across, there’s not much going on. … The later (in the year) it gets, the less chance there is of getting any significant snow.”
March is usually one of the snowiest months of the year for Summit County. This year, it was expected to help make up for the lack of snowfall in the early season.
But a resurgence of precipitation in January and February has ended, and, halfway through, March has produced only 6 inches of snow for Breckenridge.
Breckenridge averages 26.4 inches in March and received 32.1 inches in March of 2011.
The South Platte River Basin is currently at 76 percent of its average snowfall for the season, while Breckenridge is lagging behind its normal season-to-date snow totals by nearly 40 inches.
Temperatures have hovered in the 40s and low 50s over the last several days, but there is a possible shift in the weather pattern starting tonight and continuing through Tuesday.
The best chance for new snow – up to 3 inches at the higher elevations – is tonight, with overnight lows expected to sink into the 20s, according to NWS forecasts.
The cold spell could continue through early next week, but with a slighter chance of precipitation.
Monday has a 50 percent chance of snow and a high of 31 degrees. Tuesday has only a 30 percent chance of precipitation and a high of 29.
Forecasters expect conditions to dry out again by the end of the week.
The avalanche danger in the Summit County and Vail zone has abated somewhat. As of Friday, the danger was moderate (level 2) on all aspects, according to reports from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.