During spring 1984, a joint agency research effort was made to explore the use of satellite passive microwave techniques to measure snow-water equivalents in the upper Colorado River basin. This study involved the near real-time acquisition of microwave radiances from the Scanning Multichannel Microwave Radiometer (SMMR) aboard the Nimbus-7 satellite, coupled with quasi-simultaneous surface measurements of snow-pack depth and profiles of temperature, density, and crystal size within the basin. A key idea in this study was to compare, for the same space and time-scales, the SMMR synoptic physics data taken in the basin. Such a snow-measurement program was logistically difficult, but two field teams took detailed snow-pit measurements at 18 sites in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming during the last 2 weeks of March, when the snow-pack is normally at its maximum extent and depth. These observations were coupled with snow-water-equivalent measurements from Soil Conservation Service SNOTEL sites. Microwave- gradient ratio, Gr (Gr is the difference of the vertically polarized radiances at 8 mm and 17 mm divided by the sum), maps of the basin were derived in a near real-time mode every 6 days from SMMR observations. The sequential Gr maps showed anomalously low values in the Wyoming snow-pack when compared to the other states. This near real-time information then directed the field teams to Wyoming to carry out an extensive survey, which showed that these values were due to the presence of depth hoar; the average crystal sizes were more than twice as large as in the other areas. SMMR can be used to monitor the spatial distribution and temporal evolution of crystal size in snow-packs. Also, scatter diagrams of snow-water equivalents from the combined snow-pit and SNOTEL observations versus Gr from the Wyoming part, and the Colorado and Utah part, of the basin can be used to estimate snow-water equivalents for various parts of the basin.