Local snowpack increases to 96 percent of median

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    Illustration courtesy National Resources Conservation Service
    The month of January has been good to Pagosa Country in terms of snowfall, and a result of that has been increased snowpack levels in local basins. Local basins currently sit at 96 percent of median, with the Upper San Juan SNOTEL site is 76 percent of median, up 10 percent from last week.

    More snowfall has been reflected in the local snowpack basin totals, with the San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins coming in at 96 percent of median as of Jan. 23, compared to last week’s total of 84 percent of median, according to data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).
    Individually, the Upper San Juan site has again seen a 10 percent increase much like last week, with current totals being recorded at 76 percent of median, up from 66 percent of median last week.
    A decent increase was recorded in the Upper Rio Grande Basin, with snowpack totals going from 80 percent of median last week to 95 percent of median this week.
    The Gunnison River Basin shot up 15 percent from last week, going from 95 percent of median to 110 percent of median.
    The Yampa and White River basins also saw a solid increase, going from 95 percent of median last week to 109 percent of median this week.
    An increase of 10 percent is indicated for the Laramie and White River basins, jumping from 94 percent of median to 104 percent of median this week.
    In the Upper Colorado River Basin, snowpack levels jumped 12 percent, from 101 percent of median last week to 113 percent of median this week.
    The South Platte River Basin also has snowpack totals of 113 percent of median this week; however, that basin’s totals are up from 110 percent of median last week.
    An increase of 9 percent for the Arkansas River Basin has been recorded, moving snowpack levels from 122 percent of median last week to 131 percent of median this week.
    The Wolf Creek summit is 87 percent of the Jan. 23 median and 48 percent of the median peak. Last week, the summit was 80 percent of last week’s peak and only 40 percent of the median peak.
    However, locally and on Wolf Creek Pass, snowpack levels could see a slight dip with no snow being forecasted through Sunday by the National Weather Service (NWS).
    Currently, the snowpack is “holding steady,” according to NRCS District Conservationist Jerry Archuleta.
    “That’s a good thing. We need it to keep climbing. January was a good month for us,” he said.
    Wolf Creek update
    As of Jan. 23, Wolf Creek Ski Area (WCSA) has eclipsed 200 inches of snow this season, according to a press release.
    Specifically, the ski area received 5 inches of new snow from the latest storm, bringing the all-natural base depth to 75 inches at the mid-stake.
    In addition, on the morning of Jan. 18, WCSA had an avalanche triggered while WCSA was conducting avalanche hazard-reduction measures, according to an email from WCSA CEO Davey Pitcher.
    However, that avalanche was actually triggered by a hand charge placed by WCSA Route Leader John Morrison, Pitcher’s email notes.
    There have been over 200 documented avalanches at WCSA due to its avalanche hazard-reduction measures, Pitcher notes.
    “The prior storm cycle brought in over 3 inches of water which combined with a deeply buried persistent weak layer (facets) made for the right combination Of [sic] factors,” Pitcher wrote.
    In a follow-up email, Pitcher clarified that this was not the first time that an avalanche of this size and type has occurred at WCSA.
    “As a matter of act we will begin rebuilding the terrain by doing mechanical winching -breaking down the Crown line and pushing up the stock wall,” Pitcher explained. “Then its up to the next forecasted storm to fill in this avalanche — this is part of the process when you receive 465” inches of snow.”