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.

Continue reading

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

Near-record January snow in Breckenridge

Pre-dawn, post snowstorm glow on Buffalo Mountain, above Silverthorne, Colorado.

Pre-dawn, post snowstorm glow on Buffalo Mountain, above Silverthorne, Colorado.

Blue River Basin snowpack well above average for the season

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — The Blue River Basin snowpack is in good shape at midwinter, with above average snowfall during all four months of the 2014 water year, which started Oct. 1, 2013.

Last month really helped bolster the totals, as Breckenridge weather-watcher Rick Bly reported the third-snowiest January on record, dating back to the late 1800s. Bly tallied 60.5 inches at his weather station, where he tracks precipitation for the National Weather Service. According to Bly, only January 1899 (80.4 inches) and 1996 (71.8 inches) were snowier. Continue reading

Morning photo: Snow daze …

It just keeps on coming

Frisco snow.

Frisco snow.

FRISCO —It just keeps getting deeper in Summit County, with the latest round of snow fueled by an atmospheric river — sometimes called a pineapple connection — tapping subtropical Pacific moisture from beyond Hawaii. For us in the Colorado high country it translates to snow, snow and more snow. January will go down as the third-wettest on record in Breckenridge, and the first week of February has already brought a month’s worth of snow to the area, with more moisture on the way. There’s really only one thing to do when it’s like this — get out and revel while you can! Continue reading

Morning photo: Snow!

Ephemeral …

Buffalo Mountain gleams in the morning light after a big snowfall.

Buffalo Mountain gleams in the morning light after a big snowfall.

FRISCO —As long as I’ve lived in snow country, I’ve never become jaded to snow. To me, it’s one the most beautiful substances on the planet, and there’s something completely magical to seeing the landscape transformed by a thick new blanket of the frozen white stuff. The most recent storm to move through Summit County was a good one, reminiscent for me of a Sierra storm cycle, when you measure accumulations by feet, not inches. The storm took a while to clear out, so I had two mornings to go out and try capture the feeling, both with my DSLR and with the iPhone. Can you tell which pictures in this set have been massaged by various iPhone apps and filters? If you like the snapshots in this post, please visit our Fine Art America online gallery for a full selection of Summit County landscapes. Continue reading

Are the Winter Olympics at risk from global warming?

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Where will the Olympic flag fly for future winter games as the global climate warms?

‘Fewer and fewer traditional winter sports regions will be able to host a Olympic Winter Games in a warmer world…’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — By the middle of this century, many legendary winter Olympic cities will likely be to warm to host the games in the future, according to a new study from the University of Waterloo (Canada) and Management Center Innsbruck (Austria).

“The cultural legacy of the world’s celebration of winter sport is increasingly at risk,” said University of Waterloo Professor Daniel Scott, a Canada Research Chair in global tourism and lead author of the study. “Fewer and fewer traditional winter sports regions will be able to host a Olympic Winter Games in a warmer world.”

Only six of the previous Winter Olympics host cities will be cold enough to reliably host the Games by the end of this century if global warming projections prove accurate, and even under conservative warming scenarios, only 11 of the previous 19 sites could host the Games, the study found after tracking temperature increases at previous Olympic sites. Continue reading

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