Heavy Snow Relieves Drought and Closes Ski Resorts in the Mountain West

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Weekly data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows how quickly a moisture laden winter can reverse a sustained drought. Maps from the U.S. drought monitor detail the sharp decline in drought across the western United States, as winter has delivered as repeated bouts of heavy snow and rain. (See below)

At the start of the water year, before 2022-2023’s moisture laden fall and winter, drought of varying degrees of severity was the norm across the western United States. (see the graphic below)

Subject to the demands of water from two of the western United States’ large reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, the snow pack could lead to a partial recovery from several years of below normal inflow, reports NBC News 3, Las Vegas:

According to experts with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the snowpack in parts of the Rockies has not been at the current depth in decades, and it could continue to improve in April, depending on the weather. …

“I think this is an unprecedented year in terms of the amount of snow we’re seeing on the snowpack, seeing specifically in the Colorado River Basin,” said CWCB Director Becky Mitchell. …

In terms of the water equivalent, the CWCB says there have been several years of the snowpack being slightly below normal, but this year is coming in at 123% so far.

“We’re seeing about first or second highest hydrology since 1964,” said Mitchell.

It turns out, however, that there can be too much of a good thing. While many ski resorts across the western United States are planning for extended ski season, the heavy snow has led to sporadic slope and resort closures.

Fox News 13, Salt Lake City reports on one resort closure due to heavy snow leading to avalanche risk:

Less than two weeks ago, Utah was celebrating 700 inches of snow this season at many resorts and now there’s an even bigger milestone to commemorate.

Alta reported early Friday morning that they officially have hit 800 inches of snow this season. Brighton Resort topped the 800-inch mark as well on Friday afternoon.

In just the last 24 hours, Alta has received an additional 20 inches of snow on top of their already massive snowpack.

Due to the intense snow and avalanche mitigation Alta Ski Area reported they would not open Friday.

Interlodge was put in effect as crews continue to work on avalanche safety measures and it’s prohibited to go outside.

Elsewhere, Utah’s Snowbasin Resort reported 204 inches of snow fell in March, the deepest snowfall on record there for the month. For Utah as a whole, Fox News 13 reports that the water equivalent contained in the snow that has fallen during the 2022-2023 winter season broke the state’s record set in the winter of 1952, 71 years ago.

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