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New Mexico Daily Snow

Wrap-Up of New Mexico's 2019-2020 season

Update

It is Wednesday, April 15, 2020, and this will be my final daily post of the 2019-2020 season. To close out the season, you will find in this edition:

  • Extended forecast and outlook
  • Final 2019-2020 season snowpack, precipitation, and quality
  • Memorable moments from the season
  • My gratitude and closing thoughts
  • Announcements: OpenSnow is hiring a Weather Data Scientist, and COVID-19 relief efforts

**I know that COVID-19 is front and center on all of our minds, as it should be. For part of the wrap-up discussion below and celebration of the season's memorable photos, I focused on the pre-pandemic times. I know we are all hungry for a bit of normalcy and escape. I tried to capture some of the wonderful moments of the season that I believe we can still honor and celebrate.


Extended Forecast & Outlook

The general outlook through the end of April is warmer and drier than normal for New Mexico. However, multiple storms are forecast to pass to our north and a small shift in the storm track could result in snow for the Land of Enchantment, especially the northern mountains. The Euro, Canadian, and GFS are all aligned on a less favorable storm track for New Mexico through April. Here is the GFS Ensemble total snowfall through May 1st. 

The northern mountains should see some snowflakes over the next two weeks but any significant accumulation will require a more southern trend.

The month of May often has at least one surprise snowstorm up its sleeve. Hopefully, we can squeeze out a bit more precipitation to help with snowpack and water supply.

Even though this is my final daily post, the hourly and 10-day forecasts will continue to be updated every day, so definitely feel free to use our OpenSnow website and app for spring weather and snow monitoring. 

2019-2020 Season Snowpack, Precipitation, and Quality

When I look back on the 2019-2020 season, from a snow and skiing/riding perspective, I think of three defining factors:

  1. Strong early season snowpack thanks to significant November and December snowfall. Not only did this make for some unforgettable early powder days, but it allowed for substantial early terrain openings which helped mountains to weather the dry doldrums of January and February and take full advantage of the storms that we did see. There is nothing worse than not being able to ski powder because the terrain is closed due to insufficient base. Thankfully, we didn't have that problem very often in 2019-2020.
  2. January and February storms were warm and wet with heavy, dense snow. These storms had some of the lowest snow to liquid ratios I have seen in New Mexico, yielding high amounts of liquid precipitation but less actual snow. There were some powder gems in February, but the warm, wet snow quality was tricky and didn't contribute as well to the snowpack.
  3. March and April have been extremely dry compared to normal.  As a result of this drastic late-season decline, 2019-2020 will likely finish well below-average for snowpack and total precipitation. This factor didn't impact skiing and riding as much due to COVID-19 early season closures. But it will impact New Mexico's snowpack and water supply and lead to potential draught concerns.

Below is the snowpack percent of normal for April 15 (on the left), and the precipitation percent of normal (on the right) for the season to date (Oct. 1, 2019-April 15, 2020). After spending most of the season above normal for snowpack in the northern mountains, all mountains are now below normal thanks to the abysmal March and April so far.

The total precipitation numbers, on the other hand, are better. This discrepancy is due to the factor #2 above. Lots of warm, wet storms helped pad liquid precipitation totals but didn't boost snowpack in the same way. This holds especially true for the southern half of the state which is in a dire snowpack state, but from a liquid precipitation standpoint, it has had a fantastic water year. 

It is hard to watch our snowpack plummet early than normal but that is exactly what is happening. The charts below for Taos, Angel Fire, and Pajarito illustrate this remarkable spring decline. 

A final chart for Sandia Peak shows that the April 13 dumpage put Sandia back above normal as one positive outlier. Local NM Daily Snow reader, Robert Suminsby, wrote in to report that the last storm probably dropped 8-12" at Sandia Crest (not the 4-7" I had surmised) so that helps explain Sandia's late comeback.

Last week, I wrote an in-depth comparison between the 2019-2020 season and the memorable 2018-2019 season. If you missed that post you can check it out here.

Favorite and Memorable Moments from the Season

As I reflect back on 2019-2020 and browse through some memorable moments, the words of NM Daily Snow reader, Jon Pyle (a Pajarito regular), ring especially true. Jon sent me his overall take on the season and he started with: "I’m always amazed at how NM can make so much out of so little."

I think that is a good way to summarize the 2019-2020 season. Overall, the numbers will likely show a below-average year. But we sure made the most of it and the Land of Enchantment delivered many epic days.

So let's relive some of the 2019-2020 highlights.

I was born and raised in Santa Fe and learned how to ski at the Santa Fe Ski Basin so obviously this gem of a mountain holds a special place in my heart. The upper mountain opened this season on December 5th, one of the earliest I can remember, and it was a sleeper powder day with no crowds and fresh tracks all day.

The excellent early season conditions also helped Taos open Highline Ridge hike-to terrain in early December.

The tree-skiing across the northern Sangre de Cristos was unreal for mid-December.

Day of the Year Contender, December 28, 2019: The holiday week in late December was one we won't soon forget. Angel Fire had an 18" storm total and Taos and Santa Fe topped 20" storm totals. I was fortunate to be at Santa Fe on December 28. The 5 am snow report showed 1" and I almost went back to sleep thinking my big storm prediction busted. I tossed and turned trying to figure out what went wrong. Then I checked the Ski Santa Fe webcam at 6:30 am and it was puking. I've never gotten ready and up the mountain so fast, barely getting through Hyde Park before the roads closed due to spin-outs. It ended up snowing 16" of fluff between 6 am and 2 pm. 

The holiday snow made for soft conditions through the first week of January.

By the second week of January, the holiday storms were a distant memory and the dry doldrums were starting to set in. Many skiers and riders sought out fresh turns in the backcountry to make the best of the situation.

Other locals resorted to uphill access terrain to sniff out fresh tracks during these trying times of January.

Others took the storm drought in stride by ripping bumps. 

Finally, after a long dry spell, early February kicked off back to back storm cycles and several epic powder days on February 5th, 10th, and 13th. 

I missed it but heard from locals and ski patrol that Angel Fire delivered one of the best bluebird double-digit powder days of the year on February 5th.

Day of the Year Contender, February 12, 2020: Between holidays Pajarito is only open Wednesday to Sunday. On Monday, February 10th it snowed 6-8" at Pajarito. Many locals enjoyed uphill access powder on Tuesday, February 11th. The temperatures were frigid and the snow remained light and fluffy days after the storm. I was stoked to hit Pajarito on February 12th with the first bluebird skies in weeks and the 50 or so of us on the mountain were hooting and hollering all day with seemingly endless fresh tracks on a soft base. 

Meanwhile, another storm brought a mid-February surprise to Taos to close out this epic storm cycle.

Day of the Year Contender, February 12, 2020: I missed the unreal powder day on February 13th, but I was lucky to be up at Taos on the 14th when patrol dropped the rope on Kachina Peak hike-to terrain. We got to Kachina just in time to enjoy relatively fluffy snow before the sun and warm did a number on it.

The second half of February saw a few storms, and while the snow quality was heavy and wet, we New Mexicans showed our true colors and stoke to make so much out of so little.

By March, the world around us was beginning to turn upside down. Who could have imagined that by mid-March the sun would be setting on the 2019-2020 season and last hike up Kachina Peak.

My Gratitude & Closing Thoughts

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to each of you, the New Mexico Daily Snow readers and users. Thank you to everyone who has sent me feedback, snow reports, photos, corrections, and support throughout the season.

Writing the New Mexico Daily Snow is a dream come true for me. It combines three of my greatest joys and passions in life: weather/snow, skiing/powder, and New Mexico/Land of Enchantment. But none of this would mean anything or be possible without you. So thank you and please know how much I and the entire OpenSnow team appreciate your readership and support.

We are all in this together. Together we will get through this. And our beloved mountains will be here with us when we do.

Stay safe and healthy.

¡Que viva la nieve!

¡Que viva Nuevo Mexico!

JULIEN ROSS
[email protected]

Announcements

COVID-19 Relief Efforts

OpenSnow has created a resource for local foundations that are deploying funds to directly respond to the most vulnerable members of our mountain communities.

Also, doctors and nurses need personal protective equipment included GOGGLES! You can find a local hospital that needs a donation of goggles here: https://gogglesfordocs.com/

OpenSummit → Summer Weather Forecasts

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