Skip Navigation

News Release

NRCS Changes Number of Snow Courses Used for Snowpack Monitoring

Brian Domonkos



Bozeman--The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Snow Survey and Water Supply Forecasting Program for Montana is announcing a reduction in the total number of snow courses it surveys during the 2013 water year from 134 to 95.

The reduction in sites will increase efficiency and reduce costs, but also optimize the agency’s forecasting and snowpack monitoring capabilities and maintain data integrity to users.

Ninety SNOTEL sites in Montana will continue to provide the major contribution of data for forecasting and snowpack indexing. In addition, the remaining 95 snow courses will provide additional snowpack data as has been the case in previous years.

Snow courses are specific snow measurement locations in the mountains of Montana where manual surveys are performed on a monthly basis to gather snowpack totals. Historically, this data has been used in water supply forecasting. Today, with real-time SNOTEL (SNOwpack TELemetery automated snow measuring sites), snow courses act in support of SNOTEL in providing predictors for streamflow forecasts on an as needed basis. SNOTEL data are the primary input for water supply forecast equations.

Sites to be reduced:

Abundance Lake
Ashley Lake
Berry Meadow
Blue Lake
Branham Lakes
Call Road
Carter Creek
Cedar Grove
Chessman Reservoir
Copper Creek
Davis Creek
East Fork Ranger Station
Gold Creek Lake
Gold Stone
Gunsight Lake
Jahnke Lake Trail
Kings Hill
Lake Creek
Lost Soul
Middle Mill Creek
Mill Creek
Mudd Lake
Nez Perce Creek
Nez Perce Pass
Picket Pin Lower
Picket Pin Middle
Picket Pin Upper
Rock Creek
Slag-a-melt Lake
Smuggler Mine
Trail Creek
TV Mountain
Twin Creeks
White Pine Ridge

Although data for water year 2013 and beyond will no longer be gathered for the sites listed above, historical data will be available on the web or from the Montana Snow Survey office. NRCS will continue to provide the same snow survey data summaries and products, as well as water supply forecasts, as it has in the past. However, those reports will not include data from the snow courses that will no longer be manually measured.


An equal opportunity provider and employer.