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Snowpack Alarmingly Low As Dry Spell Continues In Colorado Mountains

Colorado Snowpack 2011

First Posted: 12/30/11 10:01 AM ET Updated: 12/30/11 10:52 AM ET

The 2010-2011 season saw record snowfall, but 2011-2012 is off to an alarmingly slow start. The Denver Post reports that throughout the state, snowpack is 73 percent of average -- or in other words the fourth driest measurement of snowpack in in the past 30 years. And Mike Gillespie, snow survey supervisor for the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Colorado says that it past is prologue, the mountains may not recover by spring.

While Colorado will probably not see record snowfall as it did last season, so far that doesn't seem to be slowing down the resorts. Despite the low snowpack, snowmaking and grooming crews are getting more and more runs open in Summit County and, according to 7News, Aspen's Christmas-New Year's period is looking like it will be the resort's busiest since 2007.

9News reports similar news from Breckenridge which looks like it is having a stronger December than it had the same time last year which was during a record snowfall period.

Manufacturing snow is a fine alternative, but man-made snow still comes from water and the mountains don't have an unlimited supply of that resource either, according to Summit Daily. But former Summit County Water commissioner Scott Hummer tells the Daily even though the state is in a dry spell, it is still well within the typical snowmaking season which generally lasts through New Years Day. But with low snow comes added pressure to make more, especially if this dry spell extends longer than expected.

The Summit County Voice reports that December 2011 may go down as one of the driest in recent Colorado history. And although forecasters predict much more snow to come, it's this early period that is critical to build a dense and deep snowpack that melts slowly through spring.

To view the Natural Resources Conservation Service's SNOTEL map of statewide snowpack averages as of Dec. 30, 2011, click here (map is slow loading).

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Filed by Matt Ferner  |