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Idaho snowpack concerns: Some areas seeing lowest early-January numbers in two decades

Lucky Peak Reservoir and surrounding mountains as seen from above on January 5, 2018. (KBOI Photo)

Take one look anywhere in the mountain ranges of southern Idaho, and it's easy to see that there isn't as much snow as there should be.

While it's hard (and somewhat unnecessary) to compare this winter's snow to last year's record snowfall, we've certainly seen things go from one extreme to the other. In fact, many of our mountains and ski areas have significantly less snow so far this year even compared to what's considered average for early January.

Looking specifically at Idaho, many of the basins in the southern half of the state are seeing 40-70 percent of the snowpack that's considered average for this time of year. Basins in central and northern Idaho are in better shape, as the storm tracks in the past couple of weeks have favored those areas.

According to the National Weather Service in Boise, some of the SNOTEL sites in our state (where snowpack is measured) are seeing record-low values for this time of the year. Many of these SNOTEL sites have been collecting data for 20-25 years.

But looking beyond our backyard, it's pretty evident that we're not alone. Basins in Oregon, Utah, and southern Colorado are struggling especially hard right now, while western Washington, much of Idaho, and the remainder of Colorado's mountains are also sitting 'not so pretty.'

Will things change?

Ultimately, that's impossible to know in the long-term. But in the next two weeks, long range forecasts suggest that 'wetter than average' conditions are more likely to return to the Pacific Northwest and Intermountain West. I'm keeping my eyes on a storm tomorrow, along with a couple next week that hint at a more active pattern. The hope is that these storms will benefit our ski areas and mountains in a big way, although to be honest, the potential impacts (and snow totals) are hard to discuss confidently at this point in time.

Thursday's storm could provide a nice coating of powder for Martin Luther King weekend skiers and snowboarders. Fingers crossed! Check the forecast.

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