Early-season snow off to good start in Colorado’s high country

Colorado’s snowpack is 140% of average for this time of year — but it’s still far too early to tell what kind of snow year the state will have

Chris Outcalt
The Colorado Sun
An island emerges from seasonal low water levels at Dillon Reservoir Thursday morning, Nov. 10, 2022 in Summit County.
Hugh Carey/The Colorado Sun

Snowpack on the Western Slope is off to a good start, but experts caution it’s difficult to draw many meaningful conclusions from snow-covered, high country peaks this early in the season. 

“It’s kind of like leading a football game by a field goal halfway through the first quarter,” Jeff Lukas, an independent climate researcher, wrote in an email. 

As of Thursday, the statewide snowpack was 140% of the median from 1991 to 2020, and 142% in the Colorado River headwaters area specifically, according to SNOTEL data compiled by the Natural Resources Conservation Service. The averages were slightly higher elsewhere on the Western Slope. 

Still, there’s a long way to go. Typically, on Nov. 9, Colorado is about 8% of the way to achieving statewide median snowpack, Lukas said. Right now, the state is about 12% of the way there, he said. But, Lukas cautioned that there’s very little correlation between mountain precipitation in October and early November and the final totals across an entire snow season. 

In about a third of the past 35 years, early-season snow totals looked something like they do so far this year, Lukas said. The season-ending snowpack across those 12 years, however, runs the gamut, from a handful of average years to a very good 1995 and a dismal 2012. 


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