DENVER (CBS4) – While Denver and the Front Range started this week with a couple inches of snow, the mountains saw almost nothing. And that has been the trend lately. Lower elevations have seen snow with recent storms while the high country has been mainly dry.
The recent trend has now officially caused severe drought to expand to nearly a third of the state. A month ago just 11% of Colorado was experiencing severe drought. A week ago it was 27% and now it’s up to 31%. Severe drought now covers the entire southwest quadrant of Colorado including areas such as Telluride, Gunnison, Durango, Cortez, Grand Junction and Montrose.
Meanwhile, all the recent snow in the Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins areas has helped the drought situation. With nearly 14 inches of snow in Denver so far this season, the “abnormally dry” declaration that previously included the Denver metro area has been scaled back and no longer includes any portion of the northern Front Range. The Colorado Springs area is still considered abnormally dry, which is considered the precursor to official drought.
A quick look at the snowpack number easily explains while all of southwest Colorado is experiencing severe drought. Snowpack in the San Juan basin has now dwindled to just 18% of normal for the middle of November. And the nearby Upper Rio Grande basin is now less than 50% of normal.
Despite the recent dry weather west of the Continental Divide, two more ski areas will open on Friday by taking advantage of the incredible snow in October and robust snowmaking in November. Vail Mountain celebrates opening day starting at 9 a.m. while Steamboat has it’s earliest opening ever the same day.