Winter Solistice in Leadville Today
Shortest Day in America’s Highest City
The shortest day of the year. It’s Winter Solstice in Leadville Today. Forecasters predict a sunny, bluebird day with a high near 36 degrees with a Northwest wind of 10 to 15 mph. It’s a good day to get things done as a major snow event is forecast for later in the week, with promises of a fluffy, White Christmas on Saturday, Dec. 25.
To date, it’s been unseasonable dry which tends to put mountain folks. When you live at 10, 200 feet, snow is called white gold for good reason. Yes, there are the ski resorts with hundreds on the payroll, and there’s a long list of businesses that piggyback off that from lodging to your local coffee shop to the plow guy who’s putting food on his family’s table by pushing the frozen tundra around.
Winter now also provides many other forms of winter recreation in Leadville Today. And at least one of those sports is getting underway. The annual curling league kicks off tonight at Huck Finn Ice Rink (details below). Come, cheer on your favorite stone-throwers or sign up – there’s still time!
For skaters, it’s important to note that the ice rink doesn’t officially open until next Monday and the same goes for the Dutch Henry Tubing Hill, although there have been plenty of folks using this Lake County facility at their own risk during the early, light snow days. Of course, if the weather forecasters got it right, this round pf snowstorms could be measured in feet, not inches. Time will tell, until then, here’s some news on this first day of winter in Leadville Today!
Curling League Underway in Leadville
According to the Cloud City Curling Club, the league officially gets underway at the Huck Finn Ice Rink in Leadville Today. Games are scheduled on Tuesday or Wednesday nights at 6:30 or 8 o’clock. No experience is necessary and the league still has room for two teams, so if you want to form a team check out the Lake County Recreation page and sign up. The game requires four people to play and it’s nice to have five or six on the roster.
Ice Rink to Open December 27
“The ice is finally starting to come along, but still needs some work. The tentative open date is December 27th!” Karen Lewis with the Lake County Recreation Department posted on Leadville Today’s Facebook page as readers began to inquire about one of their favorite winter activities – ice skating! The Huck Finn Ice Rink is the largest, and highest man-made rink in Colorado. The facility is open from December to February; weather permitting. Located at 445 Maple Street. In addition to skate rentals, there is a snack bar, hockey equipment, fire pit, and a great sound system. For more information on the rink please call 719-470-1116.
Users who own their own skates must pay the admission fee during business hours, however, may skate for free any time the facility is closed (unless ice maintenance is being performed)! For rink hours, season pass info and hockey/curling league sign-ups, visit the Lake County Recreation webpage.
Stacking Up in the Backcountry: Measuring Snowpack
Snowpack is paramount, even on the shortest day of the year. The snow reserves which are layered in this first day of winter assures that there will be enough water when the earth breaks free in the spring, for fishing and rafting – for drinking.
SNOTEL is an automated system of snowpack and related climate sensors operated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture in the Western United States. There are over 730 SNOTEL sites in 11 states, including Colorado
Most of the annual streamflow in the western United States originates as snowfall that has accumulated in the mountains during the winter and early spring. As snowpack accumulates each year, hydrologists measure the snow and estimate the runoff that will occur when it melts. To predict this annual runoff, the Snow Survey & Water Supply Forecasting Program manages and maintains a comprehensive network of manually-measured snow courses and automated Snow Telemetry (SNOTEL) monitoring sites throughout the West. Administered by the National Water & Climate Center, the Program collects and distributes timely, quality-controlled snowpack, water supply, and soil climate data to users worldwide.
In a recent press release distributed to media outlets, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported their success in installing numerous western U.S. monitoring stations. These systems will gather the data in the backcountry when it comes to snowpack which will serve as a benchmark for assessing water supply conditions.
Two of those SNOTEL systems are located in Lake County, at Fremont Pass, and at Brumley, known informally as the station on the Lake County side of Independence Pass or at the Twin Lakes Tunnel. The most recent report as of December 21, 2021 positions things diminishing pretty quickly from the official Dec 1 report distributed by the federal agency. In fact, the difference at Fremont pass drops significantly from 135% median down, down to a mere 89% percent of average. Not something anyone likes to see at the top of the Continental Divide. and Brumley’s situation appears even worse with a slide of nearly 50% down to a mere 54% heading into the latter half of December.
Measuring Snow for Spring Water Supplies
Beacon Park Open for Training
On this official first day of winter, if you’re looking for something different to do with your group in the great outdoors, then read on. Or maybe you have a backcountry group trip planned for the New Year? In fact, just about everyone could use a backcountry refresher course on safety before unexpectedly becoming the punchline for late-night TV show hosts, then this story is for you.
Welcome to the White River National Forest’s beacon training park! Located a short ride from Leadville, just outside of Minturn off Highway 24 West, this public facility allows users an opportunity to practice using avalanche transceivers, a critical piece of safety equipment for winter backcountry recreation.
“Record numbers of people are venturing into the backcountry, and the need for winter backcountry safety education is higher than ever,” said the Eagle-Holy Cross District Ranger. “Avalanche transceivers are key to finding avalanche victims as soon as possible, but they are only effective if people know how to use them.”
The beacon training park is situated a short climb up the slope at the Mountain Meadow Trailhead on U.S. 24, which is about ¼ mile from the I-70 Minturn exit. The new training park gives backcountry users a free and convenient location to practice avalanche rescue. Users need to provide their own avalanche rescue equipment: a beacon, shovel, and probe.
The park, which was developed in partnership with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, consists of eight buried transmitters that can be turned on and off from a small control panel. This allows for multiple search scenarios to familiarize people with using their avalanche transceivers and probing the snow for victims. It’s a self-operating system open all day to the public.
“Beacon parks have traditionally been located at ski areas, where general public access may be limited to pass holders,” the USFS Ranger said. “This accessible public location should help encourage more people to become proficient using avalanche transceivers, which can help save lives.”
While avalanche transceivers are important if someone becomes buried in an avalanche, avoiding avalanches in the first place is the best strategy. Before heading into the backcountry, check the avalanche forecast.