The Boulder Snow Myth

For the last three years I’ve been laboring to help propagate the myth that it doesn’t snow much in Boulder and when it does it’s 55 degrees the next day and the snow all goes away.  After getting back from a week of vacation on the beach in Mexico on Friday and now being on day five of the thermometer hovering around zero, tons of very frozen snow on the ground, and no chance that I’m going to contemplate heading outside for a run, I’ve decided to call bullshit on myself.

It snows here. Plenty.  It’s a really fun snow.  Beautiful, overwhelming storms that roll in, dump a foot, or two, or even three. (the record at my house – 48 inches). 


Sometimes it’s really cold, but it’s a “dry cold”, it’s not windy, and it you wear the right number of layers, a hat, and gloves it’s actually kind of fun.  Some crazy people (ahem – moi) even like to go for a trail run while it’s snowing, as long as it’s not zero degrees outside.  For example, the view from my house yesterday morning after I left my car running for a while to warm up.


It does eventually warm up and get very, very sunny.  Then all the snow and ice goes away, unless you live near Mapleton, in which case you are screwed for a while, or in Eldorado Canyon, where you actually prefer the snow and ice doesn’t go away so people have a harder time coming to visit you. 

The snow usually starts in December, although a mid-October snowstorm of a foot or more isn’t unusual.  But that early one is just a tease since it goes away in 24 hours when it’s 55 degrees.  The December one sticks around for a while because of the temperature.  And the angle of the sun.  And the next storm that comes before it all melts.  On the bright side, it usually means the ski slopes are getting hammered also.

It’s only really cold in December and January.  Well, sometimes February.  And occasionally March.  And then it really snows just to make sure spring skiing is awesome.  But by now it is actually getting warm on a regular basis so the snow comes and goes.  And it’s no big deal, unless you live near Mapleton.

From 1997 to 2005 there really was very little snow here in the winter.  The people that have been living here for 30+ years tell me that’s because there was a major drought going on.  When I moved her in the winter of 1995, I experienced two years like the past three.  But 1997 to 2005 dimmed my memory, along with all the talk about global warming.  Well – apparently the drought is over.

I’m really fucking cold this morning (-8) although my weather app tells me it’ll get up to 20 degrees today.  Oh goody.

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  • It takes a big man to call bullshit on himself. I always knew it snowed like a son of a gun there and thought you were bullshitting me 😉 Stay warm or come to Florida!

  • Hilarious post, Brad. Just to be clear, we all knew you were bullshitting us. We just let it go on to humor you 🙂

  • Lindel D Eakman

    This is when Austin shines. Maybe you need a seasonal office. Lake anybody?

  • I grew up here, an my grandparents would always leave right after Christmas and spend six weeks in Mexico. I could never understand why they would want to leave when I was a kid.

    Well, every year I understand it a bit better.

  • As we get older, we get wiser.

  • Be careful what you wish for!

  • I am getting wiser, but I'm not getting older, and anyone who tells you I am is a damn liar.

    • I’m definitely sure I’m getting older; not so sure about wiser.

  • At least you still have the other seasonal story to hold on to: Colorado's famously "dry heat." As a native of Western NY I was dreading the high temps of Colorado in the summer and called bullshit on all my friends telling me about how dry the heat was, etc., etc., blah blah blah. Turns out that after living in Denver last summer for the first time I had to admit that I was wrong and that 98 in Colorado is way more comfortable than 85 in Rochester, NY.

    I do still have this image of January in Colorado as sunny and warm, though. And I'm afraid I'm going to continue to force myself to think of Colorado winters as a sub-tropical snow globe until I have personal experience of something different.

  • Keystone here we come.

  • I was planning a trip out to boulder for this month before my best friend drug me to Havre MT for a wedding this past weekend =P. I wanted my wife and I to experience what a Boulder winter is like before we decide to move. Let's hope she does not read your blog =P.

    oh well an April trip will have to suffice.

    • Minus 31.  Now THAT’s cold.  I’m a wimp since it’s now only 7 here.

  • There is a similar weather myth about Seattle.

    Before I moved to Seattle, I kept hearing "it doesn't rain as much as people say", "the weather is just like the bay area", etc".

    During the past five years, we had a major windstorm that knocked down many power lines. We had several inches of snow last few years that paralyzed the entire city. I lived in Chicago for two years, and I had never stuck on the road due to heavy snow. In Seattle, whenever there is a snow, you'll see plenty of abandoned cars on street. The city is ill prepared for snowy weather.

    • And it’s 14 degrees there today.  Brrrr.

  • yeah i have a friend who lives there and he goes around when it snows and pulls people out for fun.

  • Camilo

    Brad, you just had to take an extra week vacation or work from Mexico.

    I miss boulder, You might have a few cold spells in the winter, but the blue skies, the mountains and wilderness are great mental stimulator. I eventually want to move back there. L.A. traffic is too much and the beautiful snow peaks that you can see from LA are visible once in a blue moon.

  • Oh – don’t get me wrong.  I love Boulder.  I even love the snow.  And for a day or two I love the cold weather.  It’s just too much five days in a row.

  • Well, there's always retreating up to the mountains in Summit. It seems to be 30s and no new snow up there ironically (sadly?).

  • I’m sweating like a dog in the tropics so be greatful for a bit of cold weather. Love the shots though. I’d love to see some real snow. Grass is always greener on the other side as they say…

  • Brad, I’m glad you were finally honest with us about the weather in Denver. You seem to share an ethos with my friends in Seattle & Portland: -)

    I feel lucky to have visited Boulder while it was warm, having left about 2 weeks ago. Saw today where it was FOUR DEGREES Fahrenheit in Denver. Having grown up in Wichita Kansas, I can appreciate that.

    Good luck with the cold! And I look forward to returning in a month or two, to visit with more terrific Boulder-area startups.

    -steve bell

  • It NEVER snows in Western Australia. You lucky bastard!!

  • True – I guess I’m just perpetuating more snow myths!  Actually, the view of Keystone looks pretty good from my webcam at my house there, but there’s nothing quite like being there.

  • Ah, the myth of "if it's snowing in Boulder, the ski areas must be getting hammered". Not usually. If the storm comes from the east, Boulder gets nailed as does Eldora just up the canyons. But the ski areas west of the divide usually get very little snow (if any) from these eastern storms. Poor Summit Co. isn't looking good, and not much coming over the next 7 days (3-6 Sun night/Mon).

  • George Jankovic

    I miss lots of things about Boulder (I lived there from '91 through '98). Sky the most. And winters were not as bad as people think–Brad, you weren't BSing people. I remember most Decembers were sunny and beautiful, even warm. But worst of all was snow for Labor Day which happened two or three times while I lived there. It didn't last for more than a few hours, but it reminded you that you weren't in California. But guys, compare that to Minneapolis, Chicago or even Seattle where it's gloomy non-stop. Boulder's weather is still great!

    • Brad I follow you from the UK, if we get 2 inches the whole countries infra stucture crumbles. Maybe you guys could start a training company showing us brits how to deal with snow!lol

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