No snow in sight as November dry spell continues after powder-packed October |

No snow in sight as November dry spell continues after powder-packed October

A view from Tiger Road overlooking the Swan River Restoration Project, Oct. 15. Dry conditions are expected to persist for at least another week in November.
Liz Copan /

September and October teased the High Country with a couple of decent storms, showering the region with late fall powder and leading to some of the earliest opening days at the ski areas in years. However, November is shaping up to be quite a different story, with a sustained dry spell that meteorologists say will persist through at least the next week or two.

Several bouts of snowfall through the middle of October resulted in a record-breaking month at Keystone and Breckenridge ski resorts, which reported 44 and 48 inches of snow by Halloween. Keystone had its earliest opening day in 20 years when the mountain opened on Oct. 12, offering hope of a long, sustained season on the slopes.

But it’s been fairly quiet since then. Unseasonably warm and calm weather during the first nine days of November has led to slow snow dissipation, leading to autumn-like conditions with no real powder in sight. 

The seeming reverse in seasons has even led to wildfire in the foothills. On Saturday, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office reported the sparking of a brush fire near Golden, just west of Heritage Park. The wildfire had grown to 17 acres in size, but did not endanger any structures. Firefighter crews from the Golden Fire Department and Foothills Fire and Rescue were at the scene working to put the fire out as of Saturday afternoon.

While the dry start to November is disconcerting to powderhounds, it doesn’t tell us much of anything about how fluffy the rest of the season will be. meteorologist Joel Gratz was a featured speaker during a fundraiser for Keystone Avalanche Deployment at Highside Brewing in Frisco Friday night. Gratz said that the big start to the season last month has been largely offset by the last couple weeks of dry weather.

“A couple of good storms in October put us way above average [for snow], but when it doesn’t snow for two or three weeks, we then get back to average and maybe even under average,” Gratz said. “But the cold snowy October was great, we got resorts open last month, that’s phenomenal. On North facing terrain, that snow’s not going to melt with the low sun angle.”

Todd Dankers, a forecaster and meteorologist for the National Weather Service forecast office in Boulder, concurred that the big snow in October or dry November wasn’t a good gauge of the type of season we’ll be seeing at peak season.

“We kind of got lucky and had a cycle of storms in October, with all those ski areas able to open so early, but it’s not the first time we’ve had snowfall in the mountains in October,” Dankers said. “It’s not really anything historical. After that, we’ve been in a dry spell, with one little system passing with four or five days of dry weather. It’s also not outside the ordinary to get dry weather in November.”

Gratz cautioned that the pattern of the past few weeks does not tell us anything about how the rest of the season will pan out, and urged a “Keep Calm and Carry On” attitude for snow junkies until December rolls around.

“I don’t really care if it doesn’t snow much right now,” Gratz said. “Whether it’s a snowy October or not, or a snowy November or not, neither tells us anything for the rest of the season.”

Gratz said that early December will start showing signs of whether it will be a truly white, busy Christmas season in the mountains.

“Dry weather during the first two to three weeks of November is not great, but it’s no reason to freak out,” Gratz said. “Chances are that things will get a little more interesting, with maybe a storm during the last 10 days of November. But if the pattern doesn’t seem to have changed by Dec. 1, and doesn’t look like it’s going to get better, that’s when i get worried a little bit. Not for the rest of the season, but for the holiday rush.”

Gratz and Dankers both predicted the dry weather to continue into Sunday, with a possibility of a touch of light snow Sunday night into Monday morning, with a dry week to follow. Gratz said that the cooler weather on Monday will be good for snowmaking, as night conditions have been “marginal” thus far in November.

Dankers said that the latest weather models showed a precipitation system possibly heading into Summit on the weekend of Nov. 16 and 17, but it is far too early to tell how much if any snow will accumulate. Dankers added that forecasters do not predict storms more than a week to 10 days out, so a solid prediction won’t come until closer to the middle of the month.

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