Snow pack update! The southern Rockies have not had a good snow year. Bad news for Lake Meade and Lake Powell as this is where the snow pack is stored and then used for irrigation and drinking water by Nevada, California, and Arizona. The good news is that the Alpine Scenic Byway should be ride-able by mid July. Snow pack was at 55% as of March 24th with a dry spring forecast. This is of course better than the 24% snow pack that was measured Feb 1st. Snow pack in the Northern Colorado Rockies is a respectable 90% so for those looking to ride the COBDR be aware that the best time to ride is still early fall. This years low snowfall is attributable to a large La Nena which allowed for large high pressure systems to set up over the Southwest. This forces storms to the north or into Mexico and also has the effect of weakening moisture bearing system that interact with the high pressure systems.
I recently spent 9 days at the Motorcycle Live Expo in Birmingham, England and was amazed at the questions asked about riding in Colorado. One particular question I was asked a few times was whether you could ride year round in Colorado. Assuming the question pertains to off-tarmac riding the short answer is “no”. Colorado has some of the best adventure riding in the USA but the weather, and terrain, is incredibly variable. Sure you can ride in Denver year round but the mountain passes in the Rockies are over 3500m/12,000. As a local it is great to be able to pick and choose when and where to ride. Unfortunately, visitors need to book tickets many months in advance and are therefore subject to the whims of mother nature.
Mud can be fun for a while but can also ruin a ride if it goes on forever. Snow is definitely a great way to ruin a vacation! In heavy snow years some passes will not be open until mid-late July or, if in avalanche prone areas, may not open at all. This is why 106 West tours of the southern Rockies do not start until August. Marshall Pass is always open in June so I know it is a great way to get to the western slope and Utah. This is why you will see a June Canyon Country ride but not a Rockies ride. Late July in Colorado is marked by daily afternoon thunderstorms. Colorado leads the nation in lightning deaths so it is always best to start early and be back below tree line by 2pm. The storms usually run from 2 – 6pm and are accompanied by severe hail and lightning. On a positive note this is the best time to view the magnificent alpine wildflowers. Late August and September is the most consistent weather. Glorious sunny, blue skies during the day and clear cool nights combined with golden aspen leaves can make late summer and fall absolutely EPIC riding.
No matter the time of year it is always best to plan on inclement weather. It has been known to snow even in mid-July and there is always the risk of a heavy down pour of rain. At 106 West we will be sure to lead you on the best routes no matter the conditions. Have any questions? Feel free to ask us at 106 West!