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Morning photo: Emergent

Earth tones

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Emergent sage, Summit County, Colorado.

FRISCO — Summit County gleamed white once again after a quick overnight storm dropped a few more inches of snow, the latest wave in a seemingly endless onslaught of winter. But it only took a few hours of warm spring sunshine start the inexorable thaw process in the valleys, where — surprise — there’s already a bit of brown earth showing. Melting snow on emergent sage has to be one of the best smells in the world, and if you don’t believe me, take a stroll along the Oro Grande trail in Dillon. Please visit our online gallery at Fine Art America for more Summit County landscape and nature photography.

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Western streamflow forecasts a mixed bag

Severe drought continues in Southwest

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California, Arizona and New Mexico reporting very dry conditions.

By Summit VoiceFRISCO — Snowpack across the West is still somewhat of mixed bag in this no-Niño winter, but February storms did help bolster water supplies across the northern tier of states, according to the monthly update from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

East of the Continental Divide as well as parts of Washington, northern Oregon, northern Idaho and western Montana are now forecast to have near-normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast from the NRCS National Water and Climate Center. Continue reading

Morning photo: Got snow?

We do!

Deep in the Gore Range.

Deep in the Gore Range.

FRISCO —Mid-March, Friends are posting pictures of crocuses, daffodils and forsythia blooming outdoors, as well as meadows greening up and trees starting to bud out — but not here in the high country, where winter still grips the land. Here’s how it looked March 15, 2014 around Summit County. Continue reading

Near-record snowpack in parts of Colorado River Basin

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

A faint sheen of color above Buffalo Mountain marked sunset, with more moisture rolling in from the West.

Colorado’s north-central mountains favored by this winter’s storm track

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Summit County remained a target for above average precipitation in February, with both official weather stations reporting surplus snowfall for the month. The Upper Blue in particular benefited from the storm track, with the snowpack now approaching record levels.

To date, the snowpack  in the Blue River Basin is the third highest on record, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Chad Gimmestad, who said there is a moderate potential for spring flooding in the basin. Continue reading

Colorado: March 1 survey shows healthy snowpack

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Big parts of the West are experiencing a moisture deficit this winter, with drought continuing in California.

Northwest flow favors Colorado’s northern mountains

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — For the third month in a row, Colorado snowpack is tracking above average. February, ended with the snowpack at 116 percent of median, with snowfall to-date for the water year (starting Oct. 1) at 133 percent of average.

A series of wet storm cycles pummeled the mountains during the month, with the bullseye over the north-central region, where some stations reported nearly double the average monthly snowfall. The no-Niño weather pattern has left a moisture deficit in the southwest part of the state, where the Upper Rio Grande and the combined San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan basins, are still experiencing below normal snow conditions for this time of year. Continue reading

Dartmouth study suggests clearcutting and ‘snow farming’ as global warming mitigation

This near-total clearcut near Frisco, Colorado, may provide a higher-value ecosystem service than a slow-growing forest. bberwyn photo.

This near-total clearcut near Frisco, Colorado, may provide a higher-value ecosystem service than a slow-growing forest. bberwyn photo.

Higher albedo of snow-covered ground a factor in climate mitigation calculations

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Snow farming is nothing new for ski area operators, who have long been cultivating the white stuff to help keep their slopes covered. Now, a recent study by researchers at Darthmouth College suggests that snow farming could also make sense on a larger scale, in the context of climate-change mitigation.

In a novel look at forests and snow, their report says that replacing forests with snow-covered meadows may provide greater climatic and economic benefits than if slow-growing trees are left standing in snowy high latitudes. In those areas, persistent snow cover reflects heat back into space, partially offsetting the effect of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. Continue reading

Colorado appeals court says ski areas not liable for inbounds avalanches

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Flags mark the spot where Christopher Norris died in an inbounds avalanche on open terrain at Winter Park Ski Area on January 22, 2012. Photo courtesy CAIC.

Ruling broadens ski industry immunity
 to lawsuits

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Skiers and snowboarders in Colorado may want to start carrying their avalanche gear at developed resorts, after an appeals court ruled last week that avalanches are one of the many inherent risks of skiing on lift-served terrain.

The Colorado Court of Appeals decision (announced Feb. 13) stems from a deadly January 22, 2012 avalanche at Winter Park resort, when Christopher Norris died while skiing an open, inbounds run at Winter Park known as Trestle Trees. As it stands, the ruling broadens the almost unprecedented immunity that ski resorts have from being held liable for accidents, including inbounds avalanches. Continue reading

Morning photo: Endless winter?

Midwinter …

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A roadside scene between Frisco and Breckenridge. The mounds of snow are settlement cones, showing how the surrounding snowpack has consolidated, while being suspended in the immediate vicinity of the small trees.

FRISCO —The hills and valleys of Summit County are probably about as snow-covered as they’re going to get this year, although the latest forecasts call for the stormy flow off the Pacific to continue into the foreseeable future. It’s not every winter that the lower elevations get this much snow, so it’s been fun to see the seasonal transformation of familiar spots. I’m sure that some people are starting to have spring thoughts right now, but I’m ready for another month of snowfall — Let’s see how deep into winter we can go! Continue reading

Avalanches kill two in Colorado

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High avalanche danger prevailed across the Colorado mountains when two backcountry skiers died in snow slides Feb. 10.

High slide danger persists across the mountains

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Colorado’s exceptionally deep snowpack turned deadly this week, as a backcountry traveler near Kebler Pass was killed in a large avalanche. Search and rescue crews also found  another victim in the backcountry between Keystone and Breckenridge after a two-day search.

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the Feb. 10 Kebler Pass slide involved two snowmobilers caught in a “very large avalanche” on a south- to southeast-facing slope below treeline. The slide broke between two to five-feet deep, about 600 feet wide and ran about 750 vertical feet. Debris at the bottom of the slide piled up to 20 feet deep.

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Climate: Storms bolster Colorado snowpack

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Colorado’s snowpack is above average as of Feb. 1.

Feb. 1 snow survey results suggest decent spring runoff for most of the state

By Summit  Voice

FRISCO — Colorado’s snowpack surged to above average in late January thanks to a strong storm that brought snow statewide, federal water experts said last week. The Feb. 1 snow survey showed the average snowpack across the Colorado mountains at 107 percent of average, and 152 percent above last year’s Feb. 1 reading.

As of Feb. 1, only the Upper Rio Grande (82 percent) and San Juan (79 percent) basins in the southern part of the state were below average, according to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. Continue reading

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