Western Slope boasts best snowfall in 10 years

Audrey Ryan
Aspen Times
Late afternoon light hits the side of Bell Mountain as storm clouds hover in the distance on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023, on Aspen Mountain.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

ASPEN — Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day last week and gave his prediction for six more weeks of winter, which is a good thing for skiers and riders eager to make the most out of their season passes.

The four Aspen Snowmass mountains received 3-6 inches of fresh snow Wednesday night and may get more as a storm rolls through Feb.15-16.

As for the long term forecast, Accuweather senior meteorologist Paul Pastelok said there are opportunities for more snow through the rest of February and March.

“There’s a lot of storms coming down out of the Northwest tracking down into the Four Corners region and then lifting out. That brings good news for the slopes and a promising situation for more snow,” he said.

The Western Slope, with emphasis on Aspen, is the best it’s been in 10 years, he said.

“There’s been several years in the last 10 years where we’ve been below normal, below 75%. The only two years we’ve really been normal are this year and the 2019-20 season, so this is promising,” he said.

With chances for more snow to come heading into spring, this year should “bring rise to the rivers,” Pastelok added. The two decent monsoon seasons in the summer have helped to put a dent in the drought for the Western Slope and Southwest desert areas, as well.

With some of the best snowfall in years comes above-average snowpack for all four mountains, according to OpenSnow.

Snowmass leads the mountains in snowpack with 133% of average for the season. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are right behind at 124% of average for the season. Aspen Mountain is still well above average at 115%.

The climate in Aspen hasn’t changed too drastically in the past 30 years, according to information from OpenSnow founding meteorologist Joel Gratz.

“Looking at the Independence Pass SNOTEL site for the past 30 years, high temperatures have shown no real trend, low temperatures have warmed about 5°F, and precipitation has shown little or no trend,” he wrote in an email.

This climate trend is typical across the state, he added, with warmer low temperatures and not much or any change in total precipitation.

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