Big Snow, Unreported

Editor’s Note: This is a weekly column written by Meteorologist Joel Gratz that will take you “behind the scenes” of the typical weather forecast. Joel is the founder of ColoradoPowderForecast.com, where you can sign up for his email alerts.

Boulder, CO – Thank you for reading this column over the season. It’s been fun to share some weather geekdom with you, and I hope you learned a few things and enjoyed the many maps with pretty colors.nI wanted to end this season with a note about measuring snow, and sadly this column will not have any maps with pretty colors. But it does contain some BIG numbers…

A friend of mine is the snow safety director at CS Irwin, a cat skiing operation about six miles as the crow flies west of Crested Butte, Colo. For two seasons, they’ve been officially measuring snow at the base of their terrain, and the statistics are incredible.

This season they recorded 730 inches of snowfall. Compare this to the nearby resort of Crested Butte and their 320 inches of snowfall. You might accuse CS Irwin of fudging the numbers, but I know these guys and can assure you this isn’t the case. Just six miles and a few mountains between CS Irwin and Crested Butte Mountain Resort make all the difference. Also note the 452-inch number for Gothic Snowlab, which is just six miles north of the town of Crested Butte.

  • Kirkwood, Calif.: 738″
  • CS Irwin, Colo.: 730″
  • Squaw Valley, Calif.: 714″
  • Alta, Utah: 665″
  • Snowbird, Utah: 661″
  • Mt. Bachelor, Ore.: 596″
  • Whistler, B.C., Canada: 594″
  • Jackson Hole, Wyo.: 557″
  • Stevens Pass, Wash.: 514″
  • Vail, Colo.: 500″
  • Wolf Creek, Colo.: 465″
  • Gothic Snowlab, Colo.: 452”
  • Fernie, B.C., Canada: 443″
  • Steamboat, Colo.: 433″
  • Park City, Utah: 429″
  • Copper Mountain, Colo.: 378″
  • Bridger Bowl, Mont.: 328″
  • Crested Butte, Colo.: 319”

Small differences in location make all the difference in the world when it comes to measuring snow. If the crew at CS Irwin had not installed and maintained a snow measuring site, we’d never know the snowfall was so high. And my guess is that many other mountain areas around the western U.S. and Canada get amazingly high amounts of snow that just isn’t reported because there’s nobody there with a ruler (or there is no SNOTEL site).

It’s been an amazing season and I’m already looking forward to 2011-12. In the meantime, enjoy some spring turns and wear lots of sunscreen as you rip up the dirt trails this summer!

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