Feet of new snow in Vail Valley’s forecast | VailDaily.com

Feet of new snow in Vail Valley’s forecast

EAGLE COUNTY — Nature's bringing us a gift this week, and it may come in a big box.

After several days of warm, sunny weather, Eagle County is under a winter storm warning until Wednesday at 6 p.m. And, while most storms come with a forecast of inches of snow, this storm is expected to bring between 1 and 2 feet of fresh snow to higher elevations.

Megan Stackhouse, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Grand Junction office, said there are actually a few storms in the works over the next week or so. The big one was expected to roll into the Vail Valley Monday evening, with the best snow accumulations coming Tuesday into Wednesday.

And, given current weather patterns, "there's more moisture associated with this storm," Stackhouse said.

“The biggest difference isn’t so much in operations as it is preparation.” Bob WilsonColorado Department of Transportation

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According to the opensnow.com website, the moisture packed into the coming storm is likely to produce heavy snow. Sam Collentine, the website's meteorologist for the Interstate 70 corridor, wrote Monday that between 8 and 16 inches of snow might come to the higher elevations. Areas along the Continental Divide may see the highest snowfall totals, Collentine wrote.

It's winter, so people whose job it is to keep people moving are already on alert. But the forecast of a big storm does bring some changes.

Ready for more

In Vail, street superintendent Charlie Turnbull wrote in an email that the town has 17 heavy equipment operators, 10 maintenance crew members and three crew leaders. That group covers the town 20 out of 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Crew members start work at 3:30 a.m. If needed, day crew members will stay on the job until the night crew arrives.

That crew will keep plowing until the last town buses are in the garage for the night. The early-morning crew then comes in, and works to have the town's streets clear by the time go-to-work traffic starts to build.

The story is similar on I-70. Bob Wilson of the Colorado Department of Transportation said this part of the mountain corridor keeps crews on snow schedules throughout the winter. If more snow is forecast for one part of the state, manpower and material can be brought in from other parts of the region. Storms like one in January that essentially hit all of Colorado can stretch those resources to their limits.

When the forecast focuses on just part of the state, Wilson said planning is consistent.

"The biggest difference isn't so much in operations as it is preparation," Wilson said. That preparation includes seemingly simple things, like making sure trucks have enough fuel. Crews also need to have enough other supplies to get through a big storm. Preparation also includes getting information out to the public. A big enough storm will bring a call to stay off the roads if possible.

Looking forward

But we live near a couple of pretty good ski resorts, and people in ski resorts study snow forecasts the way farmers look for summer rain. More is usually better.

In Lionshead, Double Diamond Ski Shop general manager Matt Carroll said the recent sunny spell was good for both locals and visitors. Guests usually prefer blue skies, Carroll said.

"But even some of our locals said it would be nice to see the sun for a few days," he added.

Still, the promise of snow isn't the reality of the white stuff. Eagle County's alert system has been sending out winter storm watches and warnings for the past few days. And it isn't often that forecasters expect feet of snow to fall in just a couple of days.

Still, Vail Valley Partnership CEO Chris Romer emailed Monday that the forecast hadn't yet had an effect on reservations booked through the Partnership's Vail on Sale website.

Carroll said the effects from a big storm in February will be good for those who come to the resorts. But, he added, big snow today can equal more business in a few weeks.

"We didn't get any snow until late (fall), and we noticed a little downtick in our business," Carroll said. But news about big snow in January fueled more business, Carroll said. Big snow this week may help carry the resorts into late February and March, when crowds get bigger and more consistent.

But with the clouds still gathering Monday, locals were waiting to see just what the latest storm really delivers.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, smiller@vaildaily.com or @scottnmiller.

The forecast

Here’s a look at the National Weather Service forecast for Vail through Feb. 11:

Tuesday: 80 percent chance of snow; high around 32, low of 29.

Wednesday: 80 percent chance of rain and snow; high about 34, low of 25.

Thursday: Mostly sunny; high near 40, low of 29.

Friday: Slight chance of rain/snow showers. High about 43, low near 28.

Saturday: Partly sunny, with a high of 32.

Much of Western Colorado is under a winter storm warning until Wednesday at 6 p.m.

Source: National Weather Service http://www.weather.gov/gjt/.