Chasing Powder: Finding Snow in Colorado’s Mild Winter

It’s been a particularly dry start to the winter season in Colorado, leaving many powder enthusiasts wondering where’s the snow? We caught up with Joel Gratz—founding meteorologist and CEO of OpenSnow — for tips on finding the best turns in this mild winter.

According to Gratz, if you’re looking for the deepest snow, and snowpack totals most on par with an average Colorado winter, head to Summit County.

“The snowpack that is closet to average is in the northern mountains along the Divide,” says Gratz. “So places like A-Basin, Loveland, Eldora and Winter Park are doing the best. They’re all kind of between 90 to 100 percent of average.”

If you’ve spent any time on I-70 recently, you know that Loveland Ski Resort is having a pretty solid year, leading the majority of Colorado ski resorts with a cumulative snowfall of 175 inches for the season — more than 20 inches over Winter Park’s 152 inches.

But when it comes to placing blame for the shortage of snow this year, Gratz says it’s just a case of bad luck. “So far this year, the dominant storm track has stayed 200 to 300 miles to the north of Colorado,” he says, adding that the storm tracks across the country are still typical for an average La Niña year. “La Niña typically brings more snow to the northwestern part of the United States and less snow in the Southern Rockies.”

So is all hope lost for powder hounds this year? Gratz says he doesn’t think so. Skiers and boarders praying for some fresh powder this weekend will most likely get their wish. “It looks like all mountains will see an additional storm/powder day on Saturday or Sunday morning,” he said. “We should also see snow sometime later next week into President’s Day weekend.”

And while Gratz’s data doesn’t allow him to predict the rest of the season, his records are showing good signs for snowfall through the end of February and possibly even into the beginning of March. “Some of the longer range models hint towards a pretty active stormy beginning of March.”

So what tips does the meteorologist have for finding good days on the mountain this season?

Stay flexible. “Get lodging in a central place in Colorado and be able to adjust plans to chase powder for each individual storm,” says Gratz — reiterating that just because Summit County has the deepest snowpack and most terrain open, doesn’t mean you should avoid the rest of the state. “The snowpack in Wolf Creek is 40 percent of average, but they have 100 percent of their terrain open. So it might be a little thin in some places, but you can ski the whole mountain.”

Check out these to-date snowfall totals from resorts across the state this season, and happy powder hunting.

Loveland Ski Area: 175 inches
Winter Park Resort: 152 inches
Breckenridge Ski Resort: 146 inches
Steamboat Ski Area: 142 inches
Copper Mountain: 140 inches
Ski Cooper: 135 inches
Keystone Resort: 125 inches
Monarch Ski Resort: 114 inches
Eldora Mountain Resort: 102 inches
Vail Ski Resort: 102 inches
Beaver Creek Resort: 96 inches
Wolf Creek Ski Area: 95 inches
Crested Butte Mountain Resort: 83 inches
Telluride Ski Resort: 77 inches


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