According to the Experts: What are our Proven, Documented Average Annual Snowfall Numbers for Angel Fire? Approximately 154″ to 160″ per year.
Photo below is Mount Baldy September 10, 2020 courtesy of Philmont Boy Scout Ranch
In the last Blast, I wanted to know if it had ever snowed in September in the Angel Fire area. I googled it. I couldn’t find any information on September snow, but several of the websites I searched said our average annual snowfall was 89″ per year and that is what I wrote. After I sent the Blast, I kept thinking about the amount and it didn’t seem right to me… after all I live here. I believe there is more that 89″ of snow on average. In speaking with Don Borgeson, local data researcher, he had wondered where I got the information too. He agreed the number was much lower than his records. So I began a mission to get true data. What is our yearly average annual snowfall?
First I contacted Robin May at the Angel Fire Resort. I knew that they kept detailed records on the mountain of each snowfall, daily, year to year, on a consistent basis. He got me in touch with Hawk Ferenczy, Director of Ski Patrol & Zip Line Tours, who provided the information he has collected since 2011. This data is collected at the summit of the mountain. I now had documented proof of actual data for nine years.
Next I reached out to Joe Stehling, who collects and reports moisture levels daily. Joe in turn pointed me in the direction of Meteorologist in Charge, Kerry Jones, at the NOAA/National Weather Services in Albuquerque, who then included Brian Guyer with the Federal NOAA into the conversation.
Locals Joe Stehling, a retired US Army engineer, and Pete Peterson, a retired Navy Meteorologist, send daily reports of precipitation – rain, snow and hail, to an organization called COCORAHS, the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail, and Snow Network out of Colorado State University. Joe also sends a weekly report known as Condition Monitoring, that describes ground conditions and significant weather when it occurs and he reports the significant weather to NWS in Albuquerque as well. His site was the first COCORAHS site in Colfax county. Plus he calls KRTN with temperatures and precipitation for both places every morning. Joe has been recording and reporting for 15 years and Pete almost as long.
The graphs, records and reports provided from all of these sources gave me plenty of actual measured snowfall from several different areas to calculate a more accurate nine year snowfall average for Angel Fire, which is approximately 154″ to 160″ per year. These recorded snowfalls were from the summit of the Angel Fire Resort, the Angel Fire airport, in the Village of Angel Fire, at the base of the mountain and in Black Lake.
The snowfall varies greatly from year to year and from location to location, mainly depending on the altitude. For example, in 2011 the summit of the Angel Fire Resort at 10,677′ recorded 152″ of snow and the Village of Angel Fire at 8448′, recorded 107″ of snowfall. Then in 2016 87″ were recorded on the summit and 91.3″ in the Village. Fast forward to 2019, 248″ of snow fell on the summit and 173.6″ was recorded in the Village. We factored in all of the different locations and amounts for the average.
And in the midst of my research, I found the answer to September snow! According to the National Weather Service records, and all of the collected data we researched, the first recorded September snow in Angel Fire happened September 17, 1971. I asked them to look up a snow event remembered by a local that occurred on September 5, 1997 in the Cimarron Canyon. After looking they suspected the September 1997 event may have been a crazy hail/sleet storm. He said we have had those events in the past, some as early as late August. Curiously, there is no differentiation between snow and sleet or hail in the archive since they are all frozen precipitation. We also searched the archives of the Sangre de Cristo Chronicle September 1997 issues with no mention of a snow event. Or this event could have been recorded in the Cimarron data, a distance of 36 miles from Angel Fire, not within our recorded weather area history. One thing is for certain, the September 9, 2020 snow is now on record and very rare indeed!
I want to thank everyone who contributed to this study and the time they gave to look up and provide me with information. It was a nice diversion from all things COVID and I learned a lot!
*Hawk Ferenczy, Director of Ski Patrol & Zip Line Tours, Angel Fire Resort
*Kerry M. Jones, Meteorologist in Charge, NOAA/National Weather Service, Albuquerque, NM
*Brian Guyer, NOAA Federal
*Community Collaboration, Rain, Hail & Snow Network : https://www.cocorahs.org/
with information from local representatives Joe Stehling & Pete Peterson
*On the Snow Website Data Base