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White Christmas unlikely across New Mexico


The only snow visible in the Sandia Mountains on Friday is a small patch of man-made snow at the Sandia Peak ski area. (Roberto Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Dreaming of a white Christmas? You’re probably out of luck this year.

The National Weather Service is forecasting dry conditions across New Mexico for the next week, which would continue Albuquerque’s nearly 80-day stretch without precipitation.

That’s the 11th longest run of dry weather in Albuquerque since 1891 – and the 109-day record is in sight.

“Let’s hope somehow the pattern changes, but right now our computer models are not showing any change,” said Roger Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albuquerque. “It’s been hard to break out of this pattern through the fall, and now into the early days of winter.”

Holiday temperatures are also expected to be above average, with Albuquerque’s high around 60 degrees on Christmas Day and Las Cruces’ high in the mid-60s.

Still, that’s well below the record highs that were recorded in November. Thanks to some chilly days this month, December has not cracked the 10 warmest on record.

“We’ve seen cold fronts, but unfortunately they were dry cold fronts,” Smith said. “Any precipitation at this point is good news.”

New Mexico does have a few bright, er, white, spots.

On Friday morning, Taos got about 3 inches of snow, while Santa Fe and Ruidoso each got about an inch.

The 10K trailhead near the top of the Sandia Mountains this week, top, and in January this year. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

The dusting helps, but overall, New Mexico’s snowpack levels are dismal, ranging from about 20 percent of normal in the Rio Chama Basin to 2 percent of normal in the Pecos Basin.

One saving grace is autumn rain that boosted many reservoirs, creating “carry-over into next season,” according to National Weather Service hydrologist Royce Fontenot.

Still, the state could use a good storm now.

Nearly 90 percent of New Mexico qualifies as abnormally dry, Fontenot said, and 17 percent has reached drought conditions.

“I would not be surprised to see the areas of moderate drought expand week by week,” Fontenot said.

With little natural precipitation, New Mexico’s ski areas are depending on snowmakers, but they say business is still good.

“Everyone is excited to be here and be skiing what they can,” said Skylar Kraatz, public relations coordinator for Taos Ski Valley.

Today, the resort will open Lift 2, bringing the total number of operating lifts to eight, with one more scheduled to open in the next week.

Taos Ski Valley met its Nov. 23 opening day target but opted for a limited Friday-through-Sunday schedule. Daily operations started on Dec. 8.

Albuquerque’s Sandia Peak Ski Area opens today, despite the dry conditions. No one could be reached for comment Friday, but the recorded message notes that additional terrain will be opened as snow permits.

Ski Santa Fe began the season on Dec. 9 – about two weeks after its scheduled Thanksgiving opening. The resort is operating five out of seven chairlifts and 11 out of 83 runs.

“The base is holding very well – it is all at this point man-made snow,” said Candy DeJoia, spokeswoman for Ski Santa Fe. “Folks still have an interest. They are still planning on coming. Our door is open.”