Quandary: How long does winter last in Summit County?
Now that Valentine’s Day is over, does that mean winter’s almost done?
Oh, that’s so cute. No. Just because Cupid has stopped his shooting rampage, doesn’t mean our flakes stop falling. In fact, in all likelihood we still have a long way to go. While some can only picture twinkling Christmas lights behind a blustery blizzard, January, February and March are actually the snowiest months in Summit.
The powder day to end all powder days (the largest snowfall on record) actually didn’t occur until April 4 in 1947. Now, if you’re a believer in global warming you probably think there is no chance for April snow in today’s climate, but stick around a few months and see if your snow tires don’t tell a different story (just try not to spit-take your Kombucha as the flakes keep falling) — April is historically Summit’s fourth snowiest month, averaging 18.6 inches of the fresh stuff. Just so you have the facts, that massive storm in 1947 was calculated to have dropped 30.5 inches in one day up by Green Mountain Reservoir. It doesn’t pay to be a goat in that kind of weather — my average brother only comes to 42 inches at the shoulder, luckily I’m a strapping specimen and could charge through that powder problem-free.
I know, I know, too many miles away and years ago to really matter for your ski day plans. Try this massive snow total on for size instead: On April 24, 2003, 24.1 inches of fluffy goodness fell over a 24-hour period in Breckenridge. Clearly, it is very possible to get the big stuff very late into the season, so don’t break out the lawn chair just yet — unless, of course, you are headed for a beach party at A-Basin.
Based on 90 years of snowfall data for Dillon, March is our snowiest month with an average of 22.7 inches, followed closely by February (19.1) and January (18.8). This means exciting times in the Kingdom for all the young boarders and skiers venturing out here for spring break with hopes of fiery plants and frozen slopes.
However, as we get later into the season, avalanche risks only continue to increase. Our weather tends to go a little bipolar this time of year with the potential for a string of days in the 40s and 50s (like we saw last week) followed by bitter cold and blowing snow (like we saw at times this week). This means that the pack on the mountains starts to thaw, only to refreeze, leaving the under layers feeling as vulnerable as the girl who sent herself flowers on Valentine’s Day. When this happens it gets easier and easier for slabs to break free from the slopes causing large slab avalanches.
For you, this means using extreme caution when making any backcountry trips. I know you’ve been careful all season and even finally learned how to turn your avalanche beacon on, but when you are skiing in a T-shirt it can be hard to remember the dangers that lurk above your head and below your board. Keep your equipment handy, plan your trip in advance and check avalanche conditions before venturing toward the backcountry. Don’t let a late snowstorm cause your early demise, and remain vigilant anytime you head out.
Quandary, an old and wise mountain goat, has been around Summit County for ages, and has the answers to any question about life, love and laws in the High Country. Have a question for Quandary? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
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