I – Inches – Snowfall in Colorado

Snowfall is really a matter of inches. Yes, size does matter, so let’s get that over with. During the season, every single inch of accumulation is totaled to give a daily running total and, when it’s all over, a season final total. That final total is added to the previous 9 years, which is then divided by 10 to give – of course – a 10-year average. This 10-year average is where bragging rights set in, and right now (which has been the case for as long as I can remember), Winter Park can boast that it gets more snow, on average, than any other major Colorado Ski Resort – currently 359 inches.

The word “major” is key here, because some other, smaller, ski areas get more than Winter Park year after year but are not considered major by Colorado Ski Country USA. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to what constitutes “major”. So, obviously, last year’s amount of snowfall plays a part as to whether that average goes up or down, but so too does the year of 10 years ago”.

The actual measurement of snowfall is an interesting sideline in itself. Where is it taken? Who does the measuring? Is there any cheating? Are the guidelines on measuring uniform among all reporting ski areas? Essentially, the measurement and accuracy thereof is down to the reporting individual, which in most cases is someone from the resort’s ski patrol.

The place on the mountain is also an important component. It’s a well known fact that the amount of snowfall can vary dramatically from area to area at Winter Park Resort. I would presume that the precise point at which our measurement is taken has the best record for the most amount of snow on mountain. So – where is it? That’s of course a closely guarded secret, but (ssshhh) the last I heard, if you unload left off the Pony Express lift, and ski straight into the trees at the top of the Rifle Sight Notch, it’s in there somewhere. Be warned – Rifle Sight Notch is Expert only, and that’s without the trees. Plus, would-be snow-measurers have gone in there never to be seen again. – a bit like the Bermuda Triangle.

The amount of inches being recorded has in recent times become even more sophisticated. We now get fractions (tenths) of an inch in official updates. I believe this was originally introduced because 0.1” was sometimes misread as 1”! You can also get a snow report e-mailed to you by the Ski Area if 5” or more powder has fallen. Forecasts usually give a 2-inch range if there’s likely to be snow. Looking at Snowforecast.com’s prediction, we have a storm system coming in this weekend and into next week, with 3-5 inches possible Monday, 4-6 Tuesday, and 2-3 Wednesday. Or, 9-14 over the three days.

The “x-inch rule” varies from resort to resort, and skier to skier, depending on what x equals. What is the x-inch rule? Let’s say it’s x=5. Basically, if the resort receives 5 inches or more of snow overnight, half the local population (or more) is finding a way to ski first thing in the morning. My own personal x=12 inches. Which means I don’t get to ski too often, but when I do, it’s memorable.

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