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A look at snowy Breckenridge in November 2018 from space. Snowpack conditions have improved significantly over the 2017-2018 season and federal forecasters are predicting a solid snow year. (Provided by the European Space Agency)

Colorado’s snow season is starting off strong, giving the state’s drought-parched agricultural industry high hopes for a quenching runoff come spring. 

“Definitely been a good start here,” said Russell Danielson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder. “Overall, the state has seen pretty healthy precipitation, snowpack so far this fall.”

Compared with last year, when ski resorts delayed their openings and weather was unusually dry statewide through the fall, things are looking much better.

“It’s a significant increase from last year, which is good,” Danielson said. “October and early November was definitely well above average in terms of snowpack.”

As of Monday, the state’s snowpack was 106 percent of normal and 99 percent of the average. Compared with last year, the snowpack is at 142 percent. 

Snotel snowpack levels as of Monday, Nov. 19, 2018. (Handout)

And there’s reason to believe the increased precipitation will continue, especially as a weak El Niño builds in the Pacific Ocean. Federal forecasters say slightly above normal precipitation rates are expected throughout the winter, with conditions favoring southern Colorado, though warmer temperatures that come with the weather pattern could lead to faster melting.

Over the next few days, conditions are expected to be warmer and drier before snow returns the weekend after Thanksgiving. 

“We’re hopeful that this near-normal to above-normal snowpack to continue and there’s reason to believe it will,” Danielson said.

Here are some satellite images of Colorado from the European Space Agency taken exactly one year apart showing just how much improvement there’s been over the last snow season:

(Click on the images and scroll to see the snowpack change)

Rocky Mountain National Park

Sawatch Range


San Juan Mountains


Jesse Paul

The Colorado Sun — Desk: 720-432-2229 Jesse Paul is a political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is...