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Big snows push snowpack above average

As winter lingers on, January brought much-needed snow to Pagosa Country. As a result, the regional snowpack grew from 97 percent of average a month ago, to 109 percent of average by Feb. 1. Across Colorado, only the Rio Grande River basin snowpack is greater, at 113 percent of average.

The state’s northern and central mountains didn’t fare as well last month. Though none recorded an average or better snowpack by the beginning of 2010, all saw further declines through January. The South Platte basin suffered the most, falling from 93 percent of average on New Years Day, to just 75 percent by Monday.

The North Platte and Colorado river basins were also deprived of valued precipitation as their snowpacks fell by 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively. The Gunnison, combined Yampa/White, and Arkansas basins saw lesser dips during what is normally one of the snowiest months of the year.

By Monday, according to Toby Karlquist of pagosacam.com, Pagosa Springs had received 94 inches of snow since Oct. 1. To Jan. 1, the season total stood at 47.5 inches. By then, the town needed 110 percent of average snowfall, or another 50 inches, by April 15, to achieve an average seasonal snowpack. January brought 46.5 inches, alone.

Even as the current picture seems fairly rosy, particularly in the Rio Grande and combined San Juan/Animas/Dolores river basins, reservoir storage is among the worst in the state. That of the Rio Grande basin is only 93 percent of average, while our combined basin average is just 88 percent of average.

By Monday, the statewide snowpack stood at 86 percent of average — the same as on Jan. 1. Its reservoir storage was 102 percent of average, indicating better-than-average storage in all the northern basins.

By 6:30 a.m. yesterday, the Wolf Creek Ski Area had accumulated 273 inches of snow since Oct. 1, and boasted a 106-inch base at the mountain summit. The mid-mountain base stood at 100 inches.

Meanwhile, the El Nino weather pattern, which seems to favor the southern mountains, continues.

chuck@pagosasun.com