Drought conditions improve in Summit County, but snowpack remains below average | SummitDaily.com

Drought conditions improve in Summit County, but snowpack remains below average

Breckenridge Ski Resort saw 37 inches of snow in April.
Photo from Breckenridge Ski Resort

April brought spring snow showers to Summit County, but it hasn’t been enough to put the snowpack back on track.

Area snowpack improved in April but is back on a melting trend. According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s measurement sites, the snowpack level at Copper Mountain peaked at the beginning of April at 12.4 inches of snow-water equivalent — the amount of water held in the snowpack. The snow-water equivalent dropped to 10.6 inches in mid-April and increased to 12 inches by Friday, April 30.

The snowpack has declined in May and is currently sitting at 9.8 inches of snow-water equivalent on Copper Mountain, or 82% of the 30-year median. The upper Colorado River basin, which Summit County falls into, is at 65% of normal snow-water equivalent as of May 10.

“Things aren’t looking so good right now,” National Weather Service meteorologist Bernie Meier said. “We’ve melted out about a third of the snowpack already.”

Meier said cool and snowy days like Monday, May 10, slow down the melting process and add a bit to the snowpack, but overall, he expects the snowpack to remain below normal. He said the snowpack usually melts out between June 10 and 20.

While there were several days of snow showers in April, the storms didn’t bring much accumulation. Meier noted that none of the recent storms have been big enough to add much water to the snowpack. According to the National Weather Service’s almanac, only 9 inches of snow was recorded in April at the Dillon Weather Station — almost half the area’s normal April snowfall of 17.3 inches.

So far, May is closer to average with a total of 3 inches as of Monday morning and more on the way with through the remainder of the storm. Through May 10, normal snowfall for the Dillon station is 3.3 inches.

Though not much snow accumulated, drought conditions have improved in Summit County, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The county is still in a drought, but the severity has lessened to a severe drought in the northern portion of the county and a moderate drought in the southern portion of the county, according to the Drought Monitor’s severity scale. As of April 27, the northern portion of the county was still in an extreme drought.

Map shows drought conditions in Colorado as of May 4.
Map from the U.S. Drought Monitor

Monday’s storm is expected to bring 8 to 16 inches of snow to higher elevations of Summit County and 4 to 8 inches to town, Meier said. He noted that the roads will be slick into Tuesday, May 11, and that a winter storm warning is in effect through 3 p.m. Tuesday. Snow showers are likely to continue through Tuesday night, according to the National Weather Service’s Frisco forecast.

The ski areas experienced April snow totals that were slightly below average compared with previous April totals, according to data gathered from OnTheSnow.com. Breckenridge Ski Resort, Arapahoe Basin Ski Area and Loveland Ski Area — which were open throughout April — saw snowfall totals between 26 and 38 inches last month. From 2016 to 2019, the three ski areas saw as much as 66 inches in total for the month of April. May totals so far range from 6 to 10 inches at the ski areas.

Graphic by Taylor Sienkiewicz / tsienkiewicz@summitdaily.com

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