Anyone who accepted last fall’s dreary, El Nino-influenced winter snowpack predictions as gospel was pleasantly surprised by the glut of snowfall in late December and January, which helped shore up mountain snowpack in Northwest Montana on the heels of a historically dry summer.
And while snowfall has tapered off at lower elevations in recent weeks, precipitation has continued to converge on the Flathead Valley – albeit often in the form of rain – bumming out powder-hounds but bolstering confidence in a productive runoff following a parched fire season last summer.
“We are not even close to being in the same boat as last year, which is good news,” Lucas Zukiewicz, water supply specialist with the state’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, said.
Snow water equivalent, a common snowpack measurement that determines the depth of water that will likely result from snow melt, is at or near the average for the year in the region’s two main river basins, according to a monthly report from the National Resources Conservation Service.
Flathead River Basin improved to 98 percent of normal snowpack and the Kootenai River Basin was at 100 percent of normal as of March 14. The Flathead tallied 103 percent of the average year-to-date precipitation, while the Kootenai was at 117 percent.
Those numbers are both higher than a year ago.
“For now we are looking good,” Zukiewicz said. “We just have to remember that whatever we get this spring is also really important. Snowpack on the ground has built a good foundation, but what we see in March and April and how that translates to our river flows in the spring will be key. But right now we are looking good.”
Meanwhile, local ski areas and communities in the Flathead have a slate of end-of-winter activities on tap, and this week’s edition of the Beacon features some of the upcoming goings-on. — Tristan Scott
First Time Pass Holder Surpasses 6 Million Vertical Feet and Counting
Back on skis for the first time in 24 years, Ken Jones is having a legendary winter on Big Mountain
By Dillon Tabish
Last fall, after saving money from a construction career, Ken Jones moved from the flatland of Lincoln, Nebraska to Whitefish, where he was excited to strap into skis for the first time in 24 years. READ MORE »»»
Behind the Scenes: Creating the Avalanche Advisory
The Flathead Avalanche Center is issuing daily advisories this season for the first time. What goes into producing this regular report?
By Clare Menzel
It’s just before 6 a.m. and Erich Peitzsch, the director of the Flathead Avalanche Center, is at his computer in his office at the Hungry Horse Ranger Station, scrolling through projected hourly models of cloud coverage across the valley. READ MORE »»»
Forty Years on the Slopes
Blacktail’s Steve Spencer is one of four inductees into the Flathead ski hall of fame
By Justin Franz
On a recent Wednesday morning, Steve Spencer rushed around the lodge trying to outfit an entire busload of middle school students with gear for a day of skiing and riding atop Blacktail Mountain. READ MORE »»»
Snowboard Contest Raises Support for Suicide Awareness
Competitors in 17th annual Nate Chute Classic use humorous videos to gather funds
By Tristan Scott
In a cringe-inducing twist to the traditional charity event, big gulps of emulsified McDonald’s Happy Meals and vomit-inducing “beer miles” are proving to be a lucrative means of raising money and awareness for suicide prevention. READ MORE »»»
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