A Guide to Seasonal Weather in Denver Colorado

The Mile High City has some of the most perfect weather in the world. Denver’s climate has 4 distinct seasons, with comfortable summers, gentle springs, and crisp winters full of brilliant sunlight. Summer temperatures can reach the low 90s, but the air is so dry that the heat is not oppressive, and temperatures fall off considerably at night. Winter nighttime temperatures can plunge down to -20 degrees Fahrenheit, but daylight temperatures are well above freezing, and a warm chinook wind coming off the mountains can raise winter temperatures into the low 40s in a matter of hours.

Although snowfall can occur anytime between October and April, Denver itself does not receive a lot of snow. The popular ski resorts of Colorado lie deeper in the mountains, where waves of storms often bring up to a foot of snow apiece. The same storms usually bring only a dusting of snow to Denver. During the entire winter, Denver only receives about 5 feet of light, fluffy snow, most of it in late fall and early spring, with about 16 inches of rain the rest of the year. Most Denver snowfalls melt by the next day.

The reason Denver avoids the heavier snowfalls further west is because the Rocky Mountains screen away most of the rain and snow from the city. The result is a semi-arid climate where the skies are usually clear. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Denver has at least 8 hours of sunlight 250 days a year.

Denver gets most of its precipitation in spring and early summer, when the dominant airmasses start bringing in Gulf of Mexico moisture to clash with cold, dry Arctic air. At this time of year, the city can go through all 4 seasons within a week, which can make dressing for the weather challenging.

The combining air masses can sometimes make for unpredictable or even wild weather at any time of year, such as the tornadoes which touched down on the eve of the 2008 Democratic National Convention. One memorable weather event which impacted the entire nation was the 2006 Christmas season blizzard. Not only did its 26 inches of snow paralyze the entire Denver region, but the ripple effect snarled air traffic at airports across the country, leaving thousands of holiday travelers stranded.

In June and July, the same unstable air often builds into thunderstorms over the mountains, which wash quickly over the city and cool it off. In the late fall the pattern reverses, as cold Pacific Northwest air floods down over the mountains to clash with Gulf warmth. Yet even during the height of the summer storm season, Denver’s humidity rarely goes above 20% for any extended length of time.

The same low humidity that makes Denver’s climate so pleasant also intensifies the effect of the sun’s rays, which are already intense from the thin, high-altitude air. It is easy to get a sunburn while skiing in Denver.