As warm days melt the last bits of snow off Smelter Mountain, it appears likely Durango will fall just short of
receiving 100 inches of snow.
Durango received 96.3 inches of snow from October through April, said Briggen Wrinkle, a local weather observer. The
average winter snowfall in Durango is
66.7 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
We just saw a lot of snow," Wrinkle said. And it just lingered. It was cold enough for it not to melt off."
While it was a big snow year in
Durango, surrounding areas received close to an average amount of snowpack and moisture.
The Animas River valley from Silverton south to the Colorado-New Mexico border was 90 to 99 percent of normal, said
Bryon Lawrence, a hydrologist for the Weather Service.
It wasn't an exceptional snow year, but it was near normal," Lawrence said.
Durango did have a much-above-snowfall-average year, and a lot of that is attributable to one really big storm that
you guys had," he said.
Actually, it was three storms that passed through Jan. 19-23 and dumped more than 4 feet of snow in city limits. It
closed schools, government offices and mountain passes. Small, naturally triggered avalanches covered a section of
Florida Road and U.S. Highway 160, heading east out of town. The city of Durango soon realized that its snow-
removal budget was woefully
Had it not been for January's snowfall, it would have been a relatively mild winter. Durango receives an average of
16.9 inches in January, but this winter, it received 39 inches.
In mountainous regions, some areas can receive significantly more or less snow than other nearby areas. Wrinkle
measures snowfall, moisture and temperature from her backyard in northeastern Durango. Just five miles south of
Durango, a weather observer reported 23 inches in January compared with Wrinkle's 39 inches.
By comparison, the monthly snowfall averages in Durango are: 1 inch in October, 5.1 inches in November, 15.4 inches in
December, 16.9 inches in January, 14.9 inches in February,
10 inches in March, 3.4 inches in April and 0.5 inch in May.
The heavy snowfall in Durango is partly attributable to a strong El Niño weather pattern, Lawrence said. The weather
pattern is characterized by a stronger-than-normal storm track across the southern part of the United States, favoring
the Four Corners. It also brings Pacific moisture.
Dolph Kuss, a former ski coach for Fort Lewis College who has lived here since 1953, said last winter was a doozy and
reminded him of what it was like decades ago - only not as cold.
In the early '50s, when I first came to Durango, it was very much like this winter if not more," he said. (But) it
seemed like it always came earlier, and we always had such cold winter in November, and now November is like
While it appears unlikely Durango will hit the 100-inch mark, longtime Colorado residents know there's always a chance
for more snow in the weeks to come. On May 24, 2008, the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic was canceled after Durango Mountain
Resort received 5 inches of snow.