2004-10-25

Colorado Springs Snow

After posting the picture of Pikes Peak to my blog last week, I got a nice comment from Michelle asking when she would see snow here in Colorado Springs.

After writing a reply to Michelle, I realized that others might be interested, so I've included it here.

Checking my pictures, the first day of real snow in town last year was exactly a year ago! October 25, I have pictures of my kids out playing in a about an inch of snow in the backyard.

But if you are new to Colorado Springs, the snow situation may be a bit surprising to you. It was to me.
I moved here from NJ 4 years ago. Where I lived in central NJ, we didn't have all that much real snow most winders. Mostly slushy stuff. But there were a few bigger snows. Heavy, wet snow. Back breaking to shovel. And it would get dirty and stay around for a long time.

When I moved to Colorado, a bunch of people said: I hope you like snow! The truth is I do.
But, it seems that most of the moisture that heads towards Colorado Springs, comes across the Rockies. So, due to mountain effect, most of the snow falls further west. Say places like Aspen, Breckenridge and the like. :)

For the most part, Colorado Springs doesn't get all that much snow. It will usually snow 4-10 times in town over the year. And depending on what part of town can make a big difference if you get snow or rain. Up where I live in Northern 'Springs, we often get a couple of inches of snow when it can be rain or even clear near downtown. But often Black Forrest and Monument will get even more than we do. And while you may not see much accumulation, you can get snow any month of the year! I've heard that before I moved here, most Halloweens brought snow storms. I've seen very cold weather most Halloweens, including rainy/icy last year (or was it 2 years ago). But that doesn't stop the trick-or-treaters. They just bundle up. And it can mean that people will give up early. The colder and wetter, the earlier most trick-or-treating will stop. Last year it fizzled out about 8:30 or so. I think my eldest braved it until about 9:00.

There are two basic ways it will snow in Colorado Springs. The first is usually fast, dry and sometime deep, when snow makes it all the way across the Rockies. And usually it will be melted away for the most part within a day. Often by the next afternoon, the strong sun will melt and dry the snow from all but the spots that are shadowed by northern exposure. My neighbor's across the street and my back yard can have snow for a few days after sometimes. I usually shovel the snow just to be sure it doesn't get icy. It usually only gets really icy if it stays very cold. Like staying below 20 Fahrenheit during the day. And sometimes the winds can make the snow pile up really high. My first winter here, I helped neighbors with 5 foot drifts against their garages.

The other normal type of snow here is when the weather come up from the Gulf of Mexico. Usually once or twice a winter we get these 'storms'. Usually the clouds will come up and stall against the mountains. We usually get three straight days of clouds. Often it will snow lightly most of the time. And the first time I saw this 'storm' it did something I thought was extremely strange: it snowed while it was foggy! From the East coast, I was used to foggy being too warm for snow. So it sort of blew my mind the first time. But then I realized, I guess that is what you get living up in the clouds!

So, you would thing that with it being Colorado, people would be used to driving with snow. You wouldn't think so to see how people drive, and how many smaller accidents happen every time it snows. Four wheel drive can let you accelerate faster in snow and ice, but it doesn't give you better stopping control than a two wheel drive car.

So people see that I live at the edge of the Rockies. There is a 14,000 foot mountain at the edge of town. So people figure I must ski all the time with it being right next door. I have to disappoint people and tell them that it usually takes at least 2 hours to get to the nearest skiing. Of course 2 hours gets you to places like Winter Park, Copper Mountain, Breckenridge, and nearly Vail. So the closest skiing is some of the best skiing in the country.

But I've found that the skiing is a lot different than I expected. I've average about once a winter so far. Costs due to low-employment has been a big factor. Back east I could do black diamond trails. Maybe not very gracefully, but pretty controlled. I haven't been able to manage that out here. I think part of it is that the runs are a little harder out here. But another factor is the type of snow. Out here, you have powder skiing. Which so many people rave about. I miss the icy snow. I do so much better on icy snow. But I guess power can be fun. I find it is harder, slower and more work.

And even with living at just under 7,000 feet, I found the altitude of the ski areas can still affect me. I also felt the altitude affecting me much more than I expected when I hiked up Pikes Peak. It can happen driving up it too. One of the best things you can do to fight altitude affects is to drink a lot of water! (And don't fight the dehydrating affects of alcohol :) ).

Another thing I found during my first winter here was how people dressed. I'd go out in 40-50 degree weather during the winter, and there would be so many people without jackets or even short sleeve shirts. At first this baffled me. I figured it had to be some sort of acclimation. It turns out in part it is. Once you are acclimated, many winter days can seem like spring. If the sun it out - and most days it is out strong. I found before the winter was out, I was doing it too. Anything 32 degrees or higher, with the sun out can be no-jacket weather. Also if it isn't too windy. But the main thing is to make sure you have a coat handy. You can get cold very quickly as the sun gets close to the mountain. About an hour or more before the sun slips behind the mountain, it starts getting colder. Much colder. Very quickly. This is a combination of the sun being less warm because of more atmosphere, and because the temperature can really drop 20 degrees or more in an hour as the sun sets.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We actually got here a week before the blizzard last year. Thank God we didn't have jobs to go to. We spent those days just watching the snow fall. I guess a lot of people that live here are used to the snow and don't get as excited as we do. I love wearing jeans and sweaters while having a chill on my face. Going to check out the forecast now to see about the "snow on Halloween" thing. =)

Thank you for the info...

Michelle
www.girlandgeek.com