Teton snowpack down; relief may be on way
By Benjamin Graham, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
January 26, 2013
The depth and water content of the snowpack is below normal in much of the Snake River basin, which encompasses nearly all of Teton County.
The lowest percentage recorded Friday was at Phillips Bench on Teton Pass, where the snow-water equivalent rate was 78 percent of the 30-year median, according to Snotel sites that collect data throughout the Natural Resources Conservation Service.
The location had only 44 inches of snow, compared with 65 inches on the same day in 2012.
The Lewis Lake Divide station in Yellowstone National Park recorded 71 inches on Jan. 25, 2011. On Friday, the depth was 57 inches.
Similar low totals have accumulated on much of Jackson Hole. A weather pattern known as a “high pressure ridge” has been the culprit, according to Bob Comey, director of the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center.
“It’s the opposite of a storm,” Comey said. “It’s a big dome of really dry air that kind of sat right over us and kept those storms from coming in.”
The weather pattern caused temperatures to plummet early this month and has kept the snow away for much of January.
That could change soon. A string of warmer days means the high pressure has moved on, Comey said.
“It’s a better situation for us getting some moisture.”
He predicted intermittent snowfall in the coming weeks.
“We have a pretty dense snowpack for the depth that we have, which is good,” Comey said. “It helps to make it more stable as far as avalanches are concerned.”
The snow will also last longer, he said.
And the situation here is better than much of the rest of state and other ski areas in Utah and Colorado.
The Lower North Platte, which covers southeastern areas of Wyoming, is at 25 percent of its normal snow-water ratio.
The storms that initially dumped fresh powder on Jackson Hole earlier this winter came from the west, Comey said.
Utah and Colorado were passed over, but Sun Valley, Idaho, and Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain in Wash-ington received generous snowfall.
“We’re lucky right here in the western part of the state,” he said.
The difference thus far from last year has been the timing of the snowfall.
A wet January followed a dry December last winter, said Comey, who is also on the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort Ski Patrol.
This year, much of the snowpack fell before and immediately after Christmas.