Colorado's First Snow

While light snows may dust the higher peaks of Colorado during any month of the year, the latest cold front, which moved through the State over the past 24 hours, brought the first significant accumulations  to mountain areas above 11,000 feet.  In most locations, the snowfall was less than six inches and, as warmer temperatures return, much of that snow will melt or evaporate; nevertheless, on shaded, north-facing slopes and in protected cirques, this storm laid the foundation for the annual snowpack, which will build to a peak in early March.

The same storm brought a steady, light rain and scattered thunderstorms to the Front Range urban corridor, welcome precipitation in the southern parts of Metro Denver but unwelcome in the flooded areas north of the city.  According the NOAA, the average date for Denver's first snowfall is October 19 though, in my own experience, it may occur by early September; since moving to Colorado in 1982, I have also witnessed snow in the Metro area as late as early June.  Denver's heaviest snowstorms often occur in March and April, when Pacific storms move east across southern Colorado, sweeping Gulf of Mexico moisture toward the Front Range.

Here's hoping that the first mountain snows will usher in a heavy snowpack for the coming season and that gradual spring melting will fill our rivers and reservoirs without the specter of additional flooding;  nature, oblivious to our hopes and fears, will keep us guessing.  It is best that we make no assumptions, conserve her precious water and prepare for a wide range of possibilities.