Above-average snowpack will lead to great outdoor recreation, according to experts | SummitDaily.com

Above-average snowpack will lead to great outdoor recreation, according to experts

Adam Poulisse
The Greeley Tribune
Snow covers the mountains west of Weld County in 2014. Several snowstorms in the past months added to this year’s snowpack. Colorado has above average snowpack in all river basins this year, likely leading to above-average recreation this summer.
Joshua Polson / jpolson@greeleytribune.com

The melting snow left behind from the winter means it’s time to hang up the skis, but the snowy winter will be a boon for outdoor recreation this spring and summer.

Recreation officials in northern Colorado say the above-average snowpack — one of our primary sources of water to drink, water our fields and play in — will be a boon for outdoor activities like whitewater rafting, paddleboarding, agriculture and fishing.

As long as the snowpack melts slowly and doesn’t cause flooding.

“We’re really happy to see snow levels doing so well, especially after last year,” said Josh Kuhn, water advocate for Conservation Colorado. “Hopefully we have a long, steady snow-melt that is going to benefit our rivers by having a long, extended runoff. There will be opportunities for good outdoor recreation.”

Each of the state’s eight basins have a snowpack greater than 100% of their historical average, Kuhn said. The South Platte (116% of normal) and Arkansas (13%) river basins are the primary rivers in the Front Range, with the other six flowing to the west.

Even snowpack in the upper Colorado River basin, with all of its water concerns, is sitting at 131% of normal, according to data maintained by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Colorado.

Rocky Mountain Adventures, 1117 US-287 in Fort Collins, is already seeing a “very promising slow start,” co-owner Kyle Johnson said. “Things are starting to melt. Ice ridges are gone.”

It should lead to a busy summer for the business which offers rafting, fishing and kayaking.

“Rafting season requires water, and we’re expecting good water,” Johnson said.

Though melting snowpack can be good for outdoor recreation, melting too fast can lead to flooding.

“If we see temperatures rise quickly, then there is a potential for flooding,” Kuhn said. “As the climate is changing, we’re seeing less snowpack throughout the decades, even though we have good snowpack this year.”

The upcoming season will be a shot in the arm for Garretson’s Sport Center, 3817 10th St. in Greeley. The local, family-owned store has been around for three generations

“It makes the season last longer,” said Todd Garretson, one of the owners. “The lakes and reservoirs will stay up past Labor Day. If we have water, we will sell water-ski stuff.”

The winter was “great” for business, Garretson said, and business should pick up in a few weeks.

“People don’t get into watersports until it’s a little warmer,” he said. “It’ll build gradually until Memorial Day then really start to take off.”

Outside the rivers, the snowpack can also affect hiking trails, said Jason Clay, public information officer for Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s northeast region.

“When snowpack starts to melt, it can create muddy trails, and the things that we look out for is maintaining the structure for the trails so they’re not degrading,” Clay said. “We’ve had a number of trails that we’ve had to close as things are drying out.”

He advises people to exercise caution when on the river.

“We do advise people to scout locations ahead of time,” Clay said. “Never boat alone, know first aid. Know if you’re on public land or private land, and respect private property.”

Adam Poulisse is the go and do reporter for the Greeley Tribune. Let him know of anything fun going on in the area by calling him at (970) 392-4440 or emailing him at apoulisse@greeleytribune.com.

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