December 10, 2021 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Daniel Soares | Photo by Ella Neurohr
Ski season is upon us! Most Colorado College students cannot wait for ski season so that they can hop on the Freeriders Union of Colorado College (FUCC) bus at 6 a.m., still hungover from the night before, and spend their day skiing and forgetting about classes. Unfortunately, so far this year much of the state is lacking the most essential resource required for skiing: snow.
This year, the record has been broken in Colorado Springs for the latest first snowfall of the year. The previous record was set on Nov. 28th 2010 when a meager .2 inches fell. This year, on Dec. 2, .2 inches graced the runway at the Colorado Springs airport, technically ending this season’s “snowless winter.”
Still, the fluffy stuff has yet to fall in earnest. Historically, the average first snowfall usually occurs in Colorado Springs on Oct. 26. Given this contrast, many CC students have grown anxious as they await snow to finally grace our campus.
One of the explanations for the dryness in Colorado Springs is the fact that 2021 is a consecutive La Niña winter. La Niña is an atmospheric phenomenon in which strong trade winds about the Equator push the water on the surface of the Pacific Ocean toward Asia. As the water on the surface of the ocean is relatively warmer, the water underneath that replaces it is colder than average.
These colder waters shift the Polar Jet Stream North, which in turn bring colder, drier air across the United States. Typically, during a La Niña year there is heavy mountain snowfall in the northwestern part of Colorado, but a fairly dry winter in the southern and eastern parts of the state. The stronger the La Niña pressures, the warmer and drier it will be in Colorado Springs.
However, while La Niña might explain some of the precipitation patterns as we enter the winter, most of Colorado is (and has been since this summer) classified by the National Weather Service as ranging from being in a moderate to extreme drought, with Colorado Springs currently categorized as being in a moderate drought.
Along with the drought, lower than average snowfall over the past two years has reduced the size of snowpack statewide, causing low water levels in Colorado’s rivers. The lack of water not only affects Colorado, but also reduces the water supply of states downstream such as Nevada and California.
This year there has been less snowpack accumulation than in the past few years and the state is deviating significantly from the average trend of snowpack accumulation. As a result, many ski resorts were forced to delay their opening days until after Thanksgiving.
While most of these resorts have since opened for the year, several are operating at minimum capacities, such as Beaver Creek, which has only been able to open two of its 169 trails. One of those trails is a bunny hill.
While the start of the ski season has been disappointing, and the prospect of a snowy winter at CC is slim, CC students should keep their fingers crossed that La Niña will bring with it heavy snowfall in the Northern mountains, which will not only make for good skiing, but help replenish the dwindling snowpack and water reserves.