Leslie up near Caribou town site

Well, after a long wait this fall, we finally got some snow, just a couple of inches at our house, but quite a bit more around 9500 feet (as you can see from the photo).  I’m sure for my readers that hail from other parts of the country, getting snow the third week of October doesn’t seem that late.  But for us Nederland residents, this is pretty late.  In fact, during the five years we have lived here, this is the latest first snowfall of the season we have had.

Why is that?  Well, you can blame the whole El Nino thing.  While El Nino came bring lots of moisture to the western United States, it also tends to produce a moderate climate temeperature-wise.  So there are no big jet streams coming out of Alaska swooping down over Colorado bringing cold temperatures with it.  Instead, the storms are just coming across southern California, bring warmer temps and precip with them.  In fact, while we have had the least amount of snow this fall, we have had the wettest October since we lived here with lots of rain falling instead.  If this last storm this week had been all snow, we would have easily had two feet of snow on the ground — crazy!

All this warm, un-fall like weather has created big issues for Colorado ski resorts.  Loveland and Arapahoe Basin pride themselves on usually being the first ski resorts to open in North America, almost always opening sometime in October.  In 1962, Loveland got an early season dump of snow and was able to open on September 30!  But this year, those two perennial early-openers got beat out by Killington in Vermont, which has had colder weather and could make snow during that cold spell.  All this warm weather is not conducive to snow-making which most resorts use extensively early season to build up their base, and then count on Mother Nature to produce during the heart of winter from December – February.

Our local ski forecasting guru, Joel Gratz, who runs OpenSnow website, a source for all ski enthusiasts has called this winter the winter of “patience.” According to him, the early season probably won’t bring a lot of cold, snowy storms our way, but come February – April, the white stuff should be falling in ample supply.  This actually corresponds to previous El Nino winters.  In fact, some of Nederland’s biggest snow storms have occurred in the spring of El Nino winters, which would just continue our trend from the last two winters, where we have gotten snow right through mid-May.

In a selfish way, I’m kind of okay with this.  For the last several seasons, I’ve gone skiing Thanksgiving weekend, because the snow was so good.  This year, we have made plans to go home to see my family for Thanksgiving, and it would have been just a little tougher on me if snow conditions were ideal (bummer!).  Of course, now that I’ve put this in print, the Snow Gods will turn the tables on me and we’ll probably get some great snow storms in Thanksgiving.  Such is life in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado!