Relax, Denver winters aren’t that bad

It’s only barely starting to look and feel like fall in Denver, but that won’t stop us from engaging in the annual Citywide Winter Panic.

A view of Denver in winter. (R0uge/Wikimedia Commons)
A view of Denver in winter. (R0uge/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s only barely starting to look and feel like fall in Denver, but that won’t stop us from engaging in the annual Citywide Winter Panic.

Out-of-state parents call to worry aloud about how we’ll survive a season they seem to think is comparable to winter atop Mt. Everest, and even some longtime residents suddenly forget all those winter days we spend enjoying 50-to-70 degree temperatures.

Here’s the thing: Winters here are pretty OK.

According to National Weather Service data dating back to Jan. 1, 1872, record highs in the Denver area for the winter months — December through February — ranged from 64 to 79 degrees.

Just this year we recorded a record high for Feb. 18: 73 degrees.

Last year, we recorded a Feb. 7 high of 74.

From December 2015 through February 2016, we experienced 32 days at 50 degrees or above. The temperature on 12 of those days was above 60.

Here I am sunbathing next to a pool in Denver in March 2015:

Rooftop, poolside. Happy March from Denver.

A photo posted by Ashley Dean (@ashleyjilldean) on

You get the idea.

More NWS data says mean maximum temperature in January is 44 degrees. That’s not even close to freezing. The mean minimum is 17.4, which, OK, is pretty damn cold.

For some reason, average snowfall information is not available for Denver, but we can get a fairly close look from Boulder’s average: 10.7 inches for the month of January.

Let’s look at January in a city known for tough winters: Boston.

NWS says the mean maximum temperature in January is 35.8 degrees. The mean minimum is 22.2. The total snowfall normal is 12.9 inches.

The biggest difference is the larger gap between highs and lows, but hey, while the Denver area’s low is about 5 degrees lower than Boston’s, its high is about 9 degrees warmer. I’ll take it.

Now let’s look at January in a city known for even worse winters: Chicago.

The data from NWS says the mean maximum temperature in January is just 31 degrees. The mean minimum is 16.5. The total snowfall normal is 10.8 inches.

And if you really want to dig into temperature data, check out the daily winter month temperature data the NWS has been collecting since 1872 for DenverBoston and Chicago.

Last thing: accumulation of snow.

This database is a little different, so we’ll look at how much snow the areas accumulated Jan. 1-31, 2016.

  • Denver: 4.6 inches
  • Chicago: 6.3 inches
  • Boston: 9.5 inches

Here’s the same period in 2015:

  • Denver: 7.2 inches
  • Chicago: 13.9 inches
  • Boston: 34.3 inches

And here are the record highs and lows.

  • Denver: 24.3 and 0 inches
  • Chicago: 42.5 and .2 inches
  • Boston: 43.3 and .3 inches

Safe to say those sunny days and higher highs are helping us out with snow removal. (Some people seem to think that means they don’t need to shovel their sidewalks, but they are wrong and also making life difficult and dangerous for others. Please shovel your sidewalks!)

Of course, all this all more or less means squat if you came here from the South. Sorry. Just think of it this way: It could be worse.

Ashley Dean

Author: Ashley Dean

Ashley Dean covers dining and nightlife, and other odds and ends. She previously covered music and did some copy editing for the Denver Post, the Colorado Daily and the Daily Camera. She's from New York, likes her bourbon straight and has strong opinions about Kanye West. She can be reached at adean@denverite.com, 303-502-2804 or @AshleyDean.