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New Mexico Daily Snow

2020-2021 Season Recap

Summary

¡Felicidades Nuevo México! Together, we achieved a safe ski and riding season with many powder days. Enjoy this season recap and we'll see you back here in November 2021.

Short Term Forecast

I am pleased to share this 2020-2021 season wrap-up post, in which you will find:

  • Snowpack update with May outlook
  • Final 2020-2021 takeaways
  • Memorable storm cycles and moments
  • My gratitude and parting thoughts
  • Announcements: don't forget our summer weather forecasting service, OpenSummit.

Snowpack update, and late April through May outlook

The April 16-18 storm cycle which brought 4-14" statewide ended a multi-week dry spell and made for some sweet Spring earn-your-turns powder in the northern Sangres. But this wasn't enough to put a dent in an already decimated snowpack following a month of dry, dusty, warm conditions. Here is the river basin snowpack from March 26th compared to April 19th showing a sharp decline.

Severe to extreme drought conditions persist statewide and while we will likely receive some modest precipitation in May, I don't see any significant super soaker storms for New Mexico in the short-term or extended forecast. We are likely in for a very difficult fire and river runoff season in May and June.

A Spring storm with high-elevation snow potential could be in our vicinity May 3rd-4th.

The outlook through the month of May could be worse. The European extended model shows that New Mexico could see average to just above-average precipitation compared to the other Four Corners states.

 

If heading out into the backcountry for some Spring turns in April and May be sure to consult with the Taos Avalanche Center's general spring snow discussion. And a big shout out to TAC for their awesome avalanche forecasting and field reporting throughout the 2020-2021 season.

Final 2020-2021 takeaways

  • From a COVID-19 perspective, New Mexico achieved a successful season with no pandemic-related closures or outbreaks at any ski resorts. A huge shout-out with sincere gratitude to all of New Mexico's frontline healthcare and essential workers, ski resort employees, management, and ski patrol, and skiers/riders who united around the shared goal of a safe and complete 2020-2021 season.

  • From a snowfall perspective, the far northern mountains enjoyed a favorable season while mountains further south endured seasons ranging from difficult to historic lows
    • We have discussed throughout this season that 2020-2021 was a moderately strong La Niña and, consistent with the historic record back to 1903, the northern Sangres around Taos Ski Valley and Red River achieved 100 to 110% of average precipitation this season.
    • Angel Fire and Sipapu in the middle to northern Sangres were below average but enjoyed mostly good conditions throughout the season with normal opening and closing dates.
    • As we get further south, Ski Santa Fe struggled early on and wasn't able to open the upper mountain until January, but scored some epic storm cycles in mid to late season and was able to stay open through the originally planned date of April 4th in spite of being around 50% of normal snowpack.
    • Pajarito endured one of the more difficult seasons in recent history, unable to open until mid-January and Pajarito was never really able to catch up but did manage to stay open through mid-March.
    • Sandia Peak and Ski Apache had one of the lowest snowfall seasons on record, taking the full brunt of La Niña.
    • You can review season snowfall totals for most of the New Mexico resorts in this post from April 13th. 

  • From a powder perspective, this season saw many deep storm cycles with many memorable days sandwiched between multiple long two-week dry spells. We had seven storm cycles this season that delivered between 12" and 24+" each. This helped make up for the long dry spells that seemed to consistently come in between the epic storm cycles. All things considered, it was a good year for powder.

Memorable storm cycles and moments

Let's relive some of the 2020-2021 season highlights.

September and October surprises

The season started on an auspicious note with New Mexico setting a new record for the earliest snowfall. According to the National Weather Service, September 17th, 1971 was the prior first measurable snow for New Mexico and we set September 9th, 2020 as the new record. Angel Fire reported that this was their earliest snowfall ever and provided cool aerial footage video.

More importantly, the surprise October 26-28 storm brought 2 FEET of snow to Taos and Red River, helping to pad their early-season snowpack and putting them on a favorable trajectory for the season.

December stoke

Thanks to the October storm and then some mid-November snow, Taos was able to open the front-side steeps for opening day on December 9th, and then take advantage of the December 10-12th storm cycle (8" to 21" across the northern mountains).

The December 10-12th storm cycle missed Ski Santa Fe, however, December 15th delivered a surprise 15" for the first powder day of the season on Santa Fe's lower mountain.

After a two-week dry spell, a solid storm on December 27-29th delivered 8-12" in the northern mountains and allowed Red River to drop ropes on their steep terrain. 

Cold smoke January pow

The January 18-19 storm delivered 12" to Pajarito allowing for a January 22nd opening day. Then the January 25-27th storm cycle brought 18" to 27" across the northern mountains for back-to-back powder days.

February fluff

February started off with a two-week dry spell, however, the February 15-18th storm cycle delivered 14-23" with multiple deep days.

And rope drops on Sipapu's heralded gladed terrain and chutes. 

Mega-March cut-off low

After yet another two-week dry spell, the mega cut-off low storm on March 13-15 brought 13-30" across the northern mountains.

I will always remember this storm for Taos scoring more snow than Eldora which had all the hype in the days leading up.

And right on time after yet another 10-day dry spell, the March 24-27 storm cycle (14-21") brought many powder grins and helped pad the snowpack at Sipapu, Santa Fe, and Taos for the closing week.

Meanwhile, others took advantage of the March storm and a stabilizing snowpack for sweet backcountry turns.

April spring stoke

Thanks to the deep storms in March, closing weekend enjoyed quintessential spring carving, hero bumps, and sending it into April.

And in a fitting way to end the season, those patient enough to endure another long 3-week dry spell were rewarded with deep earn-your-turns following the April 16-18 storm cycle of 14" in the northern Sangres high terrain.

My gratitude and closing thoughts

I want to extend my deepest gratitude to each of you, the New Mexico Daily Snow and OpenSnow readers and subscribers. Thanks so much to everyone who sent me feedback, snow reports, photos, corrections, and support this season.

Writing the New Mexico Daily Snow combines three of my greatest joys and passions in life: weather/snow, skiing/powder, and New Mexico/Land of Enchantment. But it wouldn't mean anything or be possible without you. So gracias and please know how much the entire OpenSnow team and I appreciate your readership and support.

Stay safe and healthy and I will see you in November for the 2021-2022 season.

¡Que viva la nieve!

¡Que viva Nuevo Mexico!

JULIEN ROSS
[email protected]

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