Trouts Journal

2021 Snowpack Update - February 14th Edition

Tucker Ladd / Feb 14, 2021

There’s a saying we have here in Colorado as it pertains to the variable weather we see throughout the year: “if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 minutes.”

And while this is an obvious stretch, there is something to be said that when it comes to weather in Colorado, patience is certainly a virtue. So far, the winter of 2020/2021 has been lackluster at best, but the past couple of weeks have showed signs of improvement and hopefully good things to come. And while there is no way of accurately forecasting what we are going to see over the course of the next 3 - 4 months, I wanted to offer some insight and perspective that we can all absorb as we see how the remaining months of winter play out.


While there may be 3 official months of Winter, I tend to refer to winter as the months where we receive and retain snowfall in the High Country, as this is the lifeblood of our spring, summer and fall months. We tend to see our annual snowpack start to build in October to November, although we can see winters like this year where our snowpack hardly started until mid-December. On the tail end of winter, we can expect to see our snowpack build until mid-April to mid-May, after which begins our annual melt and subsequent runoff cycle in our state's rivers.

The last key factor to always keep in mind regarding our annual snowpack cycle, is that the months of March, April and May are always the three snowiest months of the year. Now let’s take these facts and apply them to what we are currently seeing. To best understand how to interpret where we are based on the snowpack map below, I think it best to compare where we are currently to last year, and then look back on how our snowpack faired from mid-February on last year.

The above map is our current snowpack as of February 12th, 2021. As you can see we are faring better in the southern part of the state, where we have seen the abundance of snowfall so far this season. The southwest portion of the state is fairing the worst, although not by a large margin compared to the central and northern mountains. The South Platte River basin is faring quite well, which is important to ensure adequate water supply for the Denver Front Range. I can tell you from experience that our current snowpack is by no means ideal, but I wouldn’t say we are at a critical level as we were earlier this winter.

Now let’s compare our current snowpack to last year. The following map is from February 20th, 2020 but I think it still provides solid and informative year-over-year context.

As you can see, things were in a very different place this time last year. The early winter of 2020 had substantial snowfall, and I can recall most of the ski resorts being largely open by Thanksgiving. But as all good things must come to an end, the 2nd half of winter last year was anything than ideal. Here’s a map noting where our snowpack was at the end of May, 2020.

Starting in March of 2020 our mountain snowfall largely stopped, and other than a few small random storms through the spring, we didn’t see much precipitation for the rest of 2020. This largely went unnoticed by the greater angling community, as being outside was our only release, and we were all hell bent on doing something to get away from all that was going on.

“It ain't over till the fat lady sings”

So how are we going to identify what we are ideally looking for moving forward? Well obviously, snow.

Luckily, most every river basin in the high country is going to receive substantial snowfall this weekend, which will only increase our statewide numbers. And with our three snowiest months of the year to come, we will remain hopeful that the snow continues to fall.

In the meantime, if you’re not hitting the slopes, be sure to check in with us at either of our locations to find out about all of the great angling opportunities currently available. Colorado’s tailwater fisheries are a great resource for scratching that fishing itch in the winter, and if you haven’t ever tried winter fly fishing, you’ll be blown away by the potential results. Come by the either of the shops (Denver or Frisco), give us a call, or chat with us online, as we’re here to help you get the most of your time on the water.


Tucker Ladd

Owner, Trouts Fly Fishing

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