Colorado's lack of snow bad for some, good for others

Construction in the mountains ahead of schedule
Posted at 7:23 PM, Mar 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-21 19:31:34-04

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at See more 360 stories here.

DENVER — On this first day of spring, we're taking on Mother Nature.

The dry winter has been tough on ski resorts and farmers, but it's having the opposite effect on things like mountain construction projects. Builders are way ahead of schedule and under budget because they haven’t had to pay for much snow removal.

Near Gilcrest in Weld County, some farmers are already irrigating crops.

“Every vegetable that we grow needs ample soil moisture,” said Dave Petrocco, owner of Petrocco Farms.

Petrocco Farms grows everything from broccoli to cabbage to onions. Some onion seeds are already in the ground.

"We don't know how short we're going to be, but we're probably going to have to restrict some of our planting," Petrocco said. “We may not be able to fill the farms up with vegetables."

Farmers on the far eastern plains of Colorado could be in even worse shape with the lack of winter snowfall. Some rely almost solely on mother nature for their winter wheat crop.

“The plants are very small at this point, and the wheat can actually die from drought,” Petrocco said. “That crop could definitely be in jeopardy.”

Farmers closer to the Front Range rely on the runoff and snowpack in the mountains, what's called surface water, coming down through rivers and ditch systems.

"So there's a huge investment put into the crop,” said Petrocco. “And if you don't have enough water to complete that crop - you lose a lot of money."

In Summit County in Colorado’s high country, there isn’t a lot of snow right now.

“The ground is basically dry,” said Matt Mueller, development director for the new Silverthorne subdivision called Summit Sky Ranch. “We are making the most out of an opportunity.”

Mueller says they are way ahead of schedule on some houses. They're pouring concrete and basement foundations in mid-March – which is typically unheard of.

“We are typically removing three to four feet of snow right now,” Mueller said.

The mild weather may also be driving sales of the stunning modern mountain homes that sit on a ridge above the Blue River. Mueller said they expected to have about 45 of the 240 planned homes sold by now.

They've more than doubled that number, with 102 already sold.

“I think people are very excited about this community,” Mueller said. “It’s very unique for Colorado.”

Snow removal is the biggest hurdle to mountain construction in the winter months.

“But we also like to see snow. Many of us live and work in the mountains. We know that snow is important. And to not see it is concerning. We certainly don’t want this to happen every year. And I don’t think it will happen again next year.”

The mountain snowpack is the main source of water for Colorado’s Front Range.

While the South Platte basin is at 92 percent of normal, the Colorado River basin is only 80 percent of normal, and the upper Rio is at just 52 percent in southern Colorado.

So, what does it all mean to us?

So far, Denver Water says there are no water restrictions.

"We're keeping a close eye on things, and hopefully we won't have to go to that,” said Denver Water spokeswoman Stacy Chesney. “But, it's too early to say."

Although snowpack is below average, the water levels in Denver Water's reservoirs are slightly above normal.

"We can credit our customers for great water use lately,” Chesney said. “Which has helped those reservoir levels stay higher. That snow that’s in the mountains feeds our reservoirs and goes to our customers for the water that they drink and use in the city.”

Back on the farm, Petrocco remains optimistic.

“Well, if you're a farmer you have to be, or you won't be in business," Petrocco said.