This extended dry period has implications for the state’s long-standing drought, a dwindling water supply and a population that wants to hit the slopes.
“Everywhere across the state is experiencing some kind of drought conditions,” Ayesha Wilkinson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, told CNN. For example, “Denver has just recorded their second-least snowiest November,” with no measurable snow observed — meaning they had some flurries, but nothing accumulated. This November is behind only 1949 when literally “no flakes fell from the sky.”
Colorado looks representative of the rest of the country, too, at the start of meteorological winter on December 1, and only 11.1% of the United States is covered in snow.
Ski resorts push pause on opening day
Ski resorts have had to make artificial snow to cover the deficit and make it possible for skiers to return safely to the mountains. Even so, the weather hasn’t exactly played ball.
“Usually this time of year, we are well on our way to 300 hours of snowmaking, and this year we’re just edging over 100,” Loryn Duke, director of communications at Steamboat Ski Resort, explained. “And those 100 hours came in just the last week. Our snowmakers are literally filling in for Mother Nature.”
“We have all the tools in our kit to assist Mother Nature and then once Mother Nature shows up, we are ready to welcome her,” said Duke.
Drought conditions worsen across Colorado
Colorado’s specific drought situation has once again taken a turn for the worse. After some brief improvement over the spring and summer, the statewide percentage under moderate drought was 77% last week and now sits at 88% with no precipitation in the forecast until next week.
Denver just recorded its “3rd warmest November on record,” Wilkinson told CNN. The heat continues into December as record highs are challenged once again, along with below-average rainfall, consistent with the ongoing drought. “To date, Denver has only received 12.37 inches of liquid precipitation while normally we would have 14.14 inches,” explained Wilkinson.
Winter conditions can make a comeback
Just because it’s been a slow start to the winter season, it doesn’t mean the rest of the winter will follow suit. December has historically been known to produce some healthy snowfall totals in Denver, with an average of 8 inches for the month. This often equates to feet of snow in the mountains, where skiers welcome it with open arms.