Monday, June 4th, 2012

Sno-Tel on the Mountain

Northern Montana and Pac Northwest Enjoy Above Average Snowpack While Much of the West Braces for Record Drought

By Ryan Thompson

glacier national park

Photo courtesy of Glacier National Park

It’s no secret that Mother Nature is a fickle mistress.  Analogies for indecisiveness are born from her seasonal whims and even those that know her best can only guess at her long-term plans.  The Rocky Mountain West considers her more than an acquaintance, but in 2012 the region is still very much at the mercy of her idiosyncratic urges.

This spring, ol’ Ma Nature seems to be turning a particularly fond gaze toward the Northwest, the Treasure State in particular, while leaving much of the Rocky Mountain region in a very unenviable state of drought. The mountainous regions of Northern Washington, Idaho and Montana received a healthy, average winter snowpack in 2012 while many areas of the West experienced one of the slimmest winters on record.  According to the Snow – Precipitation Update provided by the US Natural Resource Conservation Service, the snowpack totals in the Flathead and Kootenai drainages in northwest Montana are still above 100% of average snow water equivalent while many major drainages in Colorado and Utah are down in the single digits.

If river-based recreation is part of your summer travel plan you may want to chart a course to Glacier National Park and its’ surrounding rivers.  “The impending summer season looks to be a good one for local outfitters, our snowpack is still a bit above normal.  Combine that with the healthy groundwater levels we have left from heavy precipitation last year and we’re looking at solid water levels this season,” said Darwon Stoneman, owner of Glacier Raft Company in West Glacier, MT.  Comparatively, outfitters across Colorado and Utah are bracing for some of the lowest summer water levels they’ve seen in ten years. According to the Associated Press, “A new [Colorado] state drought plan may require increased drought monitoring, followed by severe restrictions for communities facing the prospect of running out of water.”

Though her favor is often unpredictable and short lived, Big Sky Country and the Pacific Northwest seem to be Mother Nature’s chosen zones to quench this season.  Colorado and Utah will have to wait their turn, parched and thirsty until the rain and snow return next year.

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