by Keno

From the most recent reports of Colorado’s SNOTEL Snow/Precipitation Update, of the eight basins in the state, our south-central Upper Rio Grande basin is doing much better than earlier in the year, thanks to the near-record snows that fell in the last 2 weeks of February. Yet for the first 2+ weeks in March, almost no real snow at all fell. This is supposed to be the snowiest month for snow in our area; you never know for sure until the snow season is over. Our snowpack is where we get our water, and it is so very important to keep an eye on it, even if we can’t control it.

The Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range’s basin’s index as of March 17 was at 91% of normal; slightly off where it should be, but not bad at all considering how things have been for the last several years. Some areas in our basin alone are far better than others. Of the two closest to Crestone, Medano Pass at 9,600’, as of March 17 was seeing the second lowest amount of snowpack in this range, at 82% of average; while South Colony, at 10,800 feet, was doing much better, at 96% of average; and North Costilla, at 10,600’, the highest in the range, at 110% of normal average. You can compare these totals to a few years back when our basins were as low as 0% of average, so we should be in decent shape this summer. Totals have gone down this March, when they should be rising; time will tell how this all turns out.

As far as the rest of the Upper Rio Grande basin goes, it’s at 77% of normal as of March 17, a bit lower than we would like to see, with the Wolf Creek Summit basin only at 67%, even after a few feet of new snow falling there in late February. The rest of the state was pretty much seeing averages below normal, but nothing too different than our own basins. For the town of Crestone, officially at the Baca weather station, although a trace of snow remains on the ground as of this writing, the measurable snowpack, which started on December 13 of last year, ended on March 13.

As far as the long, ongoing drought in our state: to the east, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are out of it, as well as their foothills, including Crestone; but the San Luis Valley just to our west is not, with the western side of the valley a lot worse off than the eastern side. So although the valley down below Crestone is still officially in a drought, here in the foothills and up in the mountains we are not doing that badly, both for drought conditions and snowpack.