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Ski season less than a month away, but leaf-gaping season peaks soon

Will Aspen enjoy another monster snow year?

September 16, 2014, 11:50 am

Farmers' Almanac mapWhile this week is supposed to be largely dry and sunny — leading perfectly into peak leaf-peeping season this weekend and next — the calendar still shows that ski season in Colorado is likely less than a month away.

That’s right, even though it’s not yet officially even fall (that happens on Sept. 22), ski areas such as Arapahoe Basin and Loveland will likely start blowing snow by the end of the month, and one or both will undoubtedly be open for business by the middle of next month.

The last two seasons, A-Basin won the race to open first in Colorado by opening on Oct. 13 last year and Oct. 17 the year before. Loveland followed closely behind on Oct. 17 and Oct. 13 respectively.

Local ski areas, by comparison, won’t open until the following month – with Aspen Mountain and Snowmass both set to open on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 27. Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk follow suit on Dec. 13.

A-Basin snow patches

There was so much snow last ski season in Colorado that some patches at A-Basin will likely last through another winter (A-Basin photo).

Still, turns can be had less than a month from now a couple of hours away high on the Divide at either Loveland or A-Basin.

“The weather [this] week looks a bit warmer and drier,” A-Basin COO and VP Alan Henceroth wrote recently on Al’s Blog. “We will be ready [for snowmaking] when than first cold snap hits towards the end of September.”

Meteorologist Joel Gratz of wrote this morning that this week will contain classic Colorado fall weather, but things change a bit toward the weekend.

“The best chance of rain showers will occur between Thursday night and Friday night,” Gratz wrote. “Next weekend’s weather is still tough to call, but I think it’ll be on the drier side for most mountain areas in central and northern Colorado.”

That’s good news for those in the know on the fall-foliage front, where there’s no better place in the state for leaf-gaping than the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area near Aspen.

But once all those shimmering aspen leaves settle on the forest floor, the real question for avid snow riders is will we see a repeat of last season’s stellar snowfall totals that allowed Aspen to extend its ski season into late June last summer.

A-Basin mountain goats

Mountain goats ready for first chair at A-Basin (A-Basin photo).

For answers to that question, one may want to look to the Farmers’ Almanac, which is predicting another record-breaking winter for some parts of the country, or, you may not, according to Gratz, who largely discounts long-range forecasting:

“Since I see no track record of accuracy from the forecasts produced by the Farmers’ Almanac and the Old Farmer’s Almanac, I have zero confidence in their forecasts for the upcoming winter,” Gratz wrote earlier this month.

Regardless, here’s a recent press release from the Farmers’ Almanac in its entirety. You be the judge.

Lewiston, ME: Winter is right around the corner, and the Farmers’ Almanac, which accurately forewarned of the bitterly cold and snow-filled winter last year, just released its 2015 edition and official winter weather outlook.

It’s not for the winter-weary, but it is good news for outdoor winter sports enthusiasts.

According to the 198th edition of the Farmers’ Almanac, “The winter of 2014–2015 will see below-normal temperatures for about three-quarters of the nation, with the most frigid areas occurring in and around the Northern Plains into the Great Lakes.”  The new edition, which hit store shelves officially on August 25, 2014, states that “no region will see prolonged spells of above-normal temperatures.”

The Almanac, which has been predicting the weather for nearly 200 years, suggests that there will be a very cold outbreak during the final week of January into the beginning of February, going as far as to state that temperatures could drop to 40 below over the Northern Plains. Yes, “more shivery and shovelry” conditions are on tap for the winter ahead.  So those looking forward to lots of the white stuff  — skiers, snowboarders and snowmobilers – can rejoice.

“While we don’t think the winter will be as extreme as last year,” reveals editor Peter Geiger, “we do believe that it’s going to be another one for the record books.”

In areas where snowfall averages may be lower this winter, the temperatures will be cold enough to support plenty of snow making, so resort towns in regions where precipitation won’t be too extreme can still plan on attracting winter sports fans.

The Farmers’ Almanac outlook includes a very stormy one for the eastern third of the country, with copious amounts of snow (and yes, rain), especially during the first ten days of January and the first week in February near the Atlantic Coast. Near-normal precipitation is expected for the Pacific Northwest, the Southwest states, and Northern Plains. Below-normal precipitation values are forecast for the Southwest states as well as the Upper Midwest and the Great Lakes. The Central and Southern Plains are in what the Almanac is describing the “above average precipitation area.”

More weather predictions and maps online at

The 2015 Farmers’ Almanac contains 16 months of weather forecasts (September 2014 through December 2015) and provides a broad overview and map for the winter and summer seasons ahead, as well as month-by-month zoned forecasts for the contiguous U.S. Millions of readers consult the Farmers’ Almanac for seasonal outlooks as well as use its long-range forecasts to pick dates for vacations and weddings.

Aside from the winter weather forecast, the 2015 Farmers’ Almanac contains unique and refreshing articles on ways to live a more healthy, organic, and happier lifestyle. The 198th edition offers even more natural remedies, including a natural way to boost your immunity system and help flu symptoms dissipate quicker, as well as uses for catnip, natural bug repellent ideas, and helpful ways to encourage good luck in new homes. Always thrifty, this year’s edition offers stories on how to eat organically without blowing your budget, cost-friendly ways to makeover your garden, how and where you can find reusable building materials for your DIY projects, and what common ingredients you should stock in your medicine cabinet for more natural and less-expensive healthcare.

For more information on what’s inside or on the Farmers’ Almanac’s first-ever recipe contest, visit the web site at

“If the winter weather outlook doesn’t excite you,” shares managing editor Sandi Duncan, “the new edition of the Farmers’ Almanac is sure to help make 2015 your year by providing you with the important tools you need to grow your life.”

El Nino?!

For the first time in its 198-year history, the Farmers’ Almanac did put a small disclaimer near its winter outlook. At the time of printing for the 2015 edition, the National Oceanic Atmospheric and Administration issued an official El Nino warning. As Caleb Weatherbee, Farmers’ Almanac weather prognosticator notes, “an El Nino could result in more rain this winter for drought-stricken California and southern states, and a milder winter for the nation’s frigid northern tier.”  This could affect the Almanac’s long-range outlook, but both its editors and Weatherbee stand by their winter forecast of more “shivery and shovelry,” and suggest readers wax their skis and snowboards, and stock up on firewood, sweaters, and hot cocoa for another long, cold winter.

The 2015 Farmers’ Almanac is available now in bookstores, grocery stores and online at



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David O. Williams is an award-winning energy, environment, sports and outdoor writer based in the Vail Valley. His work has appeared in publications as diverse as the The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, SKI, SKIING, Powder, People, LA Weekly and the Huffington Post.

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