The objective of this study was to relate winter precipitation ionic inputs, snowpack retention, and change in first-order stream chemistry with spring snowpack melt. During winter 1982–83, measurement of precipitation inputs, snowpack concentration and loading, and streamwater concentration and discharge of Ca2+, K+, H+, NO3−, and SO42− from a 176-ha watershed reveals that only H+ might be lost from the snowpack before first thaw. Above-freezing soil temperature beneath the snowpack may be a factor in H+ loss. An initial 1-d thaw resulted in loss of over one third (6 eq∙ha−1) of the snowpack Ca2+. Over one half the snowpack load of K+, H+, NO3−, and SO42−, was lost in a subsequent midwinter freeze–thaw period. Snowpack loading of ionic species was reduced by 70–90% before peak spring melting and stream discharge. Ecosystem H+ retention and biological uptake of NO3− further mitigate ionic "pulses" in streamwater. Sulfate discharge exceeds bulk inputs, which suggests significant dry deposition input and little forest soil retention of this anion. The snowpack was relatively small, which limits wider application of these results to the region.