2015 Mountain Backpacking - Disappointment and Opportunity

Artemus

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Disappointment
Many of our treasured mountain ranges are again this year very dry meaning low in snowpack for this time of year. This is disappointing from the standpoint not only of our drinking water supply but also from the standpoint of the health of the ecosystem and the wellbeing of the plants and animals that depend on runoff and soil moisture for health. Much of the lower than average snowpack - especially at low and mid elevations like my house at 7K' is due to much warmer than normal temperatures. This means much of the autumn, early winter, late winter and spring precipitation falls as rain and is not captured and stored in the snowpack. You can bemoan the bad luck of the situation or work to reduce man-induced climate change the choice being based on your belief system.

Opportunity
This is the main point of my post. I want to point out that again this year there is an opportunity for a very early start of the backpacking season. I have started traveling in the high country months early last year and I will again this year. You will probably be able, depending on the continuation of this trend the rest of the snow season, go in to the mountains, to go high in the mountains and to traverse high country that is normally snow-locked for the majority of the season much earlier than normal. So, heads up - plan away! For instance, I will be able to drive to the north rim of the Grand Canyon, on the Kaibab plateau, in March instead of in June again this year because it is already essentially snow free.

Data
Here is the data. This data is from the NOHRSC Snow Data site. I have referenced this source before. I consider this data authoritative and trustworthy. It is assembled from models, satellite data, Snowtels and boots on the ground.

The key is that yellow means less snow on the ground than average for this time of year. Orange and red are much less snow than normal on the ground compared to average. Red I'm talking like 3 feet less than normal. Go to the site and do your own investigation.

Notice:
The central and Southern Wind Rivers
The Tetons
Southern and Western Jellystone
The Wyoming Salt Range
The High Uintahs
Not shown – the North Rim of the Grand Canyon

Region capture 4.png
 
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Artemus

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what's the blue mean
Try the site link. The key will be prominent on the right. The blue means various stages of more than average snow on the ground. It is a really cool site and will even use the weather models to predict in the future.

In the picker dropdown in the top left try Snow Depth, Snow Depth - Normal, and Snow Cover. Explore....
 

Parma

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The snow levels are crazy low this year. We need some storms! But the forecast is calling for even warmer temps here in Utah.
 

Artemus

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The snow levels are crazy low this year. We need some storms! But the forecast is calling for even warmer temps here in Utah.
Interesting to note that many areas are GREATER than normal on the ground. Contrast the central Wind Rivers to the northern Winds and southern Absaroka's. Red to Blue - much less to much more than normal snow on the ground....
 

Ben

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i went and checked it out before waiting for an answer. and noted the same thing you did, it is very interesting how mixed the situation is. a lot of excess and a lot of deficit. same thing in the cascades.
 

slc_dan

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Awesome post! Great ideas on planning for 2015, might change my normal desert plans for June.
 

andyjaggy

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Average snow pack for Utah is actually only slightly below average, but as noted above, it is very inconsistent from area to area. Some areas are far above normal while other areas are way below normal. The selfish part of me is glad when I see low snowpacks, because it means I can get into the mountains sooner.
 

DrNed

The mountains are calling and I must go
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Great post! I like your points and by not making it political. I, like everybody else here, love the outdoors so this is a topic, I am sure, that is important to us all. Unfortunately, it's a discussion I've avoided because in most instances it seems to be about politics, not the outdoors.
 

Devo

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If I remember 2011 right all of the crazy amount of snow pack happened after January. So still possible to have a lot come, but 2011 was definitely not a normal year.
 

Devo

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If I remember 2011 right all of the crazy amount of snow pack happened after January. So still possible to have a lot come, but 2011 was definitely not a normal year.

Scratch that I used that link and looks like 2011 was just all around a heavy year.
 

Parma

@parma26
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If I remember 2011 right all of the crazy amount of snow pack happened after January. So still possible to have a lot come, but 2011 was definitely not a normal year.
Snowbird was open until the 4th of July that year
 

Vegan.Hiker

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Very interesting topic. Not sure if it's applicable to the east coast or not, but as I was reading I was kind of hoping you were going to say something along the lines of "expect lots of snow days".. (I work at a University so when the kids are off, I get a day off from work).
 

WasatchWill

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In a perfect world we would get higher than normal all over every other year to shore up reservoirs, and less than normal in the years between. More time in the deserts with more reliable water sources in the high years, and earlier alpine hiking in the low years. But alas, we don't live in such a world. :(
 

Artemus

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In a perfect world we would get higher than normal all over every other year to shore up reservoirs, and less than normal in the years between
I firmly believe that someday we will be able to schedule the weather using technology. In the meantime I intend to make lemonade from lemons and use this Opportunity to assuage my Disappointment. :twothumbs:
 
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