It’s June, and there’s still a lot of snow in our mountains.
According to the SNOTEL comparison report on Friday, June 3, the South Platte River Basin — which includes sites like Bear Lake, Copeland Lake and Lake Eldora — the year-to-date basin-wide average is at 344 percent.
Our science writer pointed out that this doesn’t mean we’ve had 344 percent more snow; it just means it stuck around longer than usual.
Bottom line: We have way more snow than usual for early June, and it has consequences on our nearby outdoor recreation.
Kayaker Forrest Noble told me that paddlers are ecstatic about the fat snowpack and subsequent melt. He’s hoping this year’s snowpack means one of his favorite local runs lasts longer than usual.
“The biggie you train for is the North Saint Vrain, the upper NSV,” he said. Last year, it only ran a couple of days, but he hopes it’ll run for a week this year.
“The flows come directly off Longs Peak, so you can be planning to run it the next morning, and there can be a super cold night, and it’s like a faucet, it just shuts off.”
“It’s really finicky,” he said. “But it’s worth it.”
Ellen Hall, marketing director for Boulder Cycle Sport, told me mountain bikers don’t seem concerned about hitting high-country trails yet.
“A lot of those trails aren’t dry or super rideable until later in the season anyway,” she said.
But for those cyclists who like to ride toward Brainard Lake or Estes Park, the snow is still a factor, she said.
When a friend came through town last week and planned a ride up through Ward, she told him to take extra clothes and be careful, because there would probably be icy patches in the shade.
“It’s not something you typically think about in June when riding your bike,” she said.
Paul Magnanti, a backpacker, ski tourer and author of a Colorado Trail “End to End” guide, told me that the current snowpack is “troublesome to anyone into hiking and backpacking.”
His strategy right now is to go south. He just returned from a trip to New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness, but he doesn’t always go that far — his usual early-summer destination is the Lost Creek Wilderness, but it’s still snowy.
“My gut feeling is that everything is delayed by about two weeks in terms of accessibility,” he said.
The delay’s not bad, he said — more time to ski Mount Toll.
Eli Helmuth, a mountain guide based in Estes Park, guided skiers in Rocky Mountain National Park over the weekend. That’s unusual for June, he said, and even more unusual, “we now have ski trips booked into mid July.”
Lately he’s been trying to reach the mountain tops by 9 or 10 a.m. to take advantage of good skiing before the slopes become avalanche-prone by mid-day.
Eli added that with the big snowpack, low tree branches are an issue on the trail systems in the park.
“We’re reaching record high levels of tree-human interactions,” he said.