How To Measure Snow in Pagosa Country

Are you ready for winter?

Sprinkler system off and blown out? Is your car winterized? Are you ready to drive on snow packed/black ice roadways? Do you have a snow brush in your vehicle?

Don’t be that guy/gal with an uncleared car with the driver peering out a partially swiped windshield! An old Alaska trick is to raise the windshield wipers the night before so they don’t freeze to the windshield and it’s easier to clear the snow/ice.

As the snow heads our way, it’s time to review how to measure the white fluffy stuff for all our weather reporters.

How to measure SNOW?


Should be measured in 1/10th of inch: 0.4”, 1.5”, 7.8” using a ruler. We love your snow pics with the ruler! Note: snowfall is the measurement for a particular storm.

Snow Depth

Is measured to the nearest inch using a yardstick. We hope there is enough snow this winter where a 12” ruler is not enough to get total snow depth. At least invest in a yard stick. Note: Snow depth is the total depth of the snow that is on the ground.


“You should have a snowboard (a flat board, painted white, ideally about 16″ x 16”). They come in very handy for measuring snowfall.

If not, that’s OK, but you will need to identify a good representative location that is as flat and level as possible where snow accumulates uniformly and does not melt prematurely. Wooden decks are OK, but they should be at least 20-30 feet away from your house since your house will affect snow accumulation patterns.

Shawn and I have a white painted snowboard that we will set in an area that appears that it will be free of drifts and winds.

There are always areas that drift more, areas that are sheltered and that varies from storm to storm depending on wind direction. Over time we’ll find what our predominant wind direction is for snow systems and where the most representative spot is.

For Official “Snowfall” Measurement

Boards are cleared every 6 hours. That’s not possible for most folks. So try to clear every 12 hours. First thing in the morning and then again at night is ideal. That way, the snow is not allowed to settle, blow away or worse yet melt!

With a snowboard, you can just flip it (after measuring)! This gives you a more accurate estimate.

If you don’t have a snowboard, then try to sweep or shovel your observation spot every 12 hours. But we’re very happy with any information you can pass to us! A 12” ruler should suffice for most 12 hour periods.

For “Snow Depth” Measurement

Take the average number of measurements in areas not prone to drifting or clearing. A yard stick is a perfect tool because it can break through crusty layers in the snow pack.

“But Arleen, what if we have more than 3 feet like last year?” Shawn and I made a 6 foot with measurements every 4” similar to ski areas. We’d love to see it buried some winter!

To Measure Snow Water Equivalent of total Core Sample:


269 24 Oct 2020 SMALL
Snow stake (left) for measuring snow depth. A snowboard (right) for measuring snowfall.

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