Saturday, May 20, 2017

May Snowstorm in Estes Park!

After the storm

It's mid January. The phone rings. It's a man planning a long weekend escape for he and his family in May. We get through the initial questions about the cabins and where we're located in town. You know, the normal, easy questions to answer. Then he asks "What's the weather like in May?" Uh oh. They're hoping to do some fishing, some hikes with the kiddos, some scenic driving, and maybe play a little mini golf before dinner one evening.

This is one of the hardest questions to answer. The months of April, May, September, and October are notorious for being fickle beasts and occasionally throwing us for a massive loop. This week, the month of May threw us a huge curve ball! It was wonderful even though it created a lot of extra work and and was troublesome for many many folks.

The Old Caretakers Cottage under a few feet of spring snow
May is traditionally a pleasant month with mild temps, greening grass, blooming flowers, and plenty of that blue Colorado sky we love so much! But every so often Mother Nature keeps us honest and switches things up a bit.  And she switched it up in a big way this week!

We had a couple of days warning but we're always skeptical when a large snow is predicted this time of year. It usually fizzles out and just leaves us a dusting down low with a fresh snow cap on the mountains. I can't tell you how many times I heard "I'll believe it when I see it" this week from friends. Well, we all believe it now! It started snowing lightly on Wednesday evening and by the time we woke up Thursday morning there was over a foot on the ground and it was snowing heavily! And it just kept snowing. And snowing. And snowing. And snowing. Well, you get the picture.

Whenever the skies unleash their snowy fury it brings with it a sense of peace and calm. The noises are muffled, your environment is limited to what you can see in your immediate area, and the enchanting snow globe effect takes full shape. It's intimate and it's wonderful. Guests get out and play in the snow. The wildlife hunkers down. Fireplaces are roaring. There really isn't anything like a big snowfall in the mountains! But as it keeps piling up we start running into some trouble.

A Columbine Cottage covered in snow
This storm totaled almost 3 feet on the dot. But there was actually quite a bit more snow than that. At first, much of the snow was melting as it hit the ground. And it was such a heavy, wet snow that once it rose to about the three foot level it didn't rise much at all even though it snowed about another 10 inches. The weight of the snow just compressed it all and the hight off the ground sort of stopped rising. It will be interesting to see what the total snow/water equivalent was for the storm. I shoveled on Thursday night and it was right at 3 feet on my deck at home. The next morning there was another 10 inches on the ground that I'd shoveled, even though the height of the un-shoveled snow only rose about an inch more. So I'd guess it was closer to 4 feet of total snowfall, which is remarkable!

The morning after the storm
We are used to getting snow in May, but it is rarely this much. In fact, this would be a massive storm for March or April as well, our snowiest months of the year.

This was a pretty messy storm. Being so wet, the snow was almost slimy when driving in it. There were countless accidents and folks sliding off the roads. We even got the plow truck stuck a couple of times. It was heavy and very difficult to shovel as well. But we got it done, the guests were all cozy in their cabins, and this is a storm we will certainly remember for years to come!

So back to the question of what the weather is like in May. Well, it could be 80 degrees and sunny or 25 degrees and literally dumping snow. If you're booking in these transition months, have an open mind about what weather to expect and start checking the 10 day forecast just before your trip and plan accordingly. I seem to get the best forecasts from watching two different sites. NOAA's site is the most generally accurate source out there. But I have found that Weather Underground does a better job of predicting the 10 day forecast more accurately. And it has highly localized weather stations and forecasts that are quite useful.

Both of these links are specific to the Fall River Valley, where McGregor Mountain Lodge is located.

NOAA     •     Weather Underground

It's spring in the Rockies, it's 20 below. 
The flowers are blooming, but under the snow...


  1. That would be my trusty RAV4 buried under that snow. Thankfully Chris and his crew helped to dig me out. What a wild and wonderful week it was!

  2. I know it can be a menace and hassle for those who live in cold areas and experience snowfall, but I ust want to see heavy snowfall once in my life.