Colorado’s snowpack is 40 times normal after rare summer solstice dump

By Jason Samenow, The Washington Post

On summer’s opening day, up to 20 inches of snow buried the high terrain of the Colorado Rockies, boosting the state’s snowpack to extraordinary levels for the time of year.

The solstice flakes marked a continuation of a snowy stretch that began in January and February and lingered through spring. Even before the solstice snow, The Denver Post wrote, the state’s snowpack was “in virtually every numerical sense . . . off the charts.” At the time, the snowpack was 751 percent above normal.

Due to the new snow Friday into the weekend, the Natural Resources Conservation Service reported that the state’s snowpack ballooned to 4,121 percent above normal as of Monday. This number is so high because ordinarily very little snow is left by late June, and cold temperatures late into the spring helped preserve what fell earlier.

After the weekend blanket of white, the scenes in the high country west of Denver resembled midwinter. Enough snow fell to close roads, while many ski areas reported accumulation, including Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin and Steamboat Springs.

At Steamboat, snow stakes showed up to around 20 inches Saturday. CNN wrote that the last time this area witnessed snow this late in the season was June 17, 1928. It averages just 0.1 inches in June and normally sees its last day of snow around May 6.

At Arapahoe Basin, so much snow has fallen since the winter that it has stayed opened for skiing on weekends through the month. It declared Saturday a powder day after a fresh coating of two inches. The resort plans to open again next weekend and possibly over the July 4 weekend, its blog says.

The snow was triggered by an unusually cold pool of air at high altitudes over the western United States combined with a vigorous weather disturbance that ejected out of the Southwest.

While the snow may have some in the Colorado high country craving warmer temperatures, the onslaught of precipitation since January has ended a costly drought in the state, and the elevated snowpack and runoff are expected to lower Colorado’s wildfire risk through the summer.