U.S.

It’s December, it hasn’t snowed in Denver and records are falling

It’s been 224 consecutive (and growing) days since it snowed a measurable amount in Denver, and it just broke the record for the last time it snowed for the first time—a record since snowfall records began in 1882. At the time Denver didn’t even enter December. Never without measurable snowfall.

This extended dry period has implications for the state’s long-running drought, dwindling water supplies, and populations who want to reach the slopes.

“Everywhere in the state is experiencing some kind of drought conditions,” National Weather Service meteorologist Aisha Wilkinson told CNN. For example, “Denver just recorded the second lowest November in terms of snowfall,” with no measurable snowfall observed—meaning they had some flashes, but none accumulating. This November is just behind 1949 when “no flakes fell from the sky”.

Colorado appears to be representative of the rest of the country as well at the start of the meteorological winter on December 1, and only 11.1% of the United States is covered in snow.

Ski resorts stop on opening day

While the state endures one of the driest and warmest periods in modern record keeping, its impact on the ski resorts cannot be overlooked.
Like Telluride, some ski resorts have been forced to delay opening day until after Thanksgiving, giving up revenue for the extended weekend.

Ski resorts had to make artificial snow to cover the deficit and enable skiers to return safely to the mountains. However, the weather didn’t exactly play ball.

“We typically have about 300 hours of snowmaking under our belts by this time of year, but we’ve been able to run our guns for about 200 hours,” explained Lauren Duke, director of communications for Steamboat Ski Resort. “Our Snow Makers infuse Mother Nature.”

Optimal conditions for making snow include a “mixture of low temperature and low humidity,” also known as a wet bulb. Conditions inside mountains must remain at or below freezing at night and during the day to help increase the core ice mass.

“We have all the tools in our kit to help Mother Nature, and then as soon as Mother Nature shows up, we’re ready to welcome her,” Duke said.

Snow in Colorado is not only critical to the nearly $5 billion ski industry, but it’s also essential to the state’s access to fresh water.

Drought conditions worsen across Colorado

More than two-thirds of Colorado’s water supply comes from snow mass, according to the University of Colorado Boulder Environmental Center. Less snowfall means less water, which is bad news for everyone, given the long-standing drought plaguing the western United States.
The Colorado River Basin, whose headwaters originate in the western part of the state, provides drinking water for more than 40 million Americans. Water shortages were first announced, fueled in part by climate change.
Once again, Colorado’s specific drought situation has taken a turn for the worse. After some brief improvements over the spring and summer, the statewide percentage in moderate drought was 88% last week and is now at 95% with no rain forecast until next week.

Denver just recorded its “third warmest November on record,” Wilkinson told CNN. The heat continues into December with record highs once again encountered, along with mediocre rainfall, consistent with persistent drought. “So far, Denver has only received 12.37 inches of liquid precipitation, whereas we typically have 14.14 inches,” Wilkinson explained.

Winter conditions can return

Just because it was a slow start to the winter season, it doesn’t mean the rest of winter will follow suit. December is known to produce some healthy snowfall totals in Denver, averaging 8 inches per month. This often equates to feet of snow in the mountains, which skiers welcome with open arms.

Joel Gratz, who forecast snow for ski resorts and is the founding meteorologist for OpenSnow, told CNN Weather, “A couple of feet of snow can help many mountains open up a lot of terrain. One to three storms can cause that much.” out of snow, so things can change quickly.”
Ski enthusiasts in Colorado look out for storms that come from the southwest, as they carry abundant moisture from the Pacific Ocean that can equate to several feet of snow in the mountains. Another favorite snowstorm trail comes from the Northwest, which prefers lighter snow that is branded Steamboat Ski Resort as Champagne Powder.

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