Winter Mountain Snowpack

open06_resizeEvery year trout anglers get a little housebound at this time of year and begin to worry about mountain snow pack unnecessarily. We’re sharing the following graphs from the Athabasca R drainage south┬áto the US border. These show more snow in the north, less in the south┬árelative to historical average. The graphs also show it has been warm down south as some packs have melted.

The caution is that we’re only now getting into the peak accumulation period of the year in many cases. As you see in the graphs below, (blue current year, green last year, dotted lines historic averages) we have a long way to go yet. We could freak out that the Limestone pack is low compared to historic levels and extremely low compared to last year. Given the amount of snow in the Clearwater drainage (at right) in early April last year, how long and cold spring it was, and how few fishing opportunities there really were until late May, that might not be a bad thing.

As any analysis of snow pack reveals, it only shows what has happened thus far. One storm can drop 50cm of snow in the high country, taking a slightly below snow pack to slightly above. Those kinds of storms are more common from late Feb to May. It’s most likely they simply haven’t happened yet than not going to happen. If the precipitation doesn’t fall as snow, then it becomes a soil moisture concern, something that June rains usually take care of. And June rains have far greater impact on our trout waters as the rate and impact of rain run off is more severe than that of melting snow given the intensity of rain storms.

Any concern over water – too much or not enough – inevitably comes back to perspective and trend. We can be concerned for our trout in the moment, but it’s when we look at the trend and impact over several years that we gain that perspective. One year of drought or flood may cause detriment for a few years, but those events have to be severe to have that level of impact. In other words, concern over snow pack at this time of year is rather moot. The exception for a thin line of low elevation trout waters open in April and May and whether the conditions allow us to fish or not. But that’s a daily change due to melting snow regardless of how much there is – it’s when and how quickly it melts relative to when we hope to fish.

Here’s what our snow charts are showing (See the snow pack monitoring page at the Alberta Environment Page):

snow01Ath_resize snow02Lime_resize snow03Sun_resize snow04Lost_resize snow05Gard_resize snow06Akima_resize

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