Finding room for the white stuff |

Finding room for the white stuff

Shane Macomber/Vail DailyTown of Vail employees use four front-end loaders to clear snow and load dump trucks to haul the snow away Thursday on Alpine Drive in Vail.

VAIL ” Jim Hervert started as a snowplow driver a couple years after the monster snowfall of the 1983-84 season, and he’s been waiting for that kind of year since.

“I’ve always thought it would be neat to have the equipment to fight it and have everyone think you’re a hero,” he said.

This year is that kind of year.

Snowplow drivers are working overtime to clear streets and are starting to wonder where they’re going to put all of the snow that keeps falling.

“It’s opening our eyes that we’ve had a lot of mild winters,” said Charlie Turnbull, streets superintendent for the town. “Now we’re having one of our 10- or 20-year storm seasons.”

In Vail, plowed snow is piling up on the sides of roads. The town is starting to use snowblowers on the sides of streets just to make them passable. The town’s snow dump ” a 30-foot-deep hole the size of a football field ” is already half full. And January has just begun.

“It’s the closest thing to a glacier there is in Colorado,” Hervert said.

Early to work

The town’s daytime drivers, who usually start at 7 a.m., are regularly getting calls at 3:15 a.m. that they have to come in right away. Hervert, a snowplow driver for the town of Vail, had his last day off on Christmas, and has only had four days off since Thanksgiving, he said.

“The guys are starting to get burned out because they’re working all the time,” Turnbull said.

The town has 17 snowplow drivers and another eight workers who clear stairs and sidewalks. They have six Freightliner snowplows that hold volcanic rock, a salt and sand mix and mag chloride.

The mag chloride is only used on 2.5 miles ” which includes roundabouts and a few steep grades ” of the 32 lane-miles of roads that Vail maintains.

The town has six loaders that primarily clear snow in parking structures, parking lots, bus routes, and the pedestrian areas in town. Snowblowers also attach to the front of the loaders.

The town also has a road grader ” a giant truck that scrapes hard-packed snow on main roads ” and two dump trucks that carry snow to the town’s snow dump.

Between storms, the town is already using the blowers a lot to make sure roads are passable.

“It’s a lot earlier than normal,” Turnbull said. “We were out in East Vail as early as the first of December.”

The blowers cut and blow snow back a few feet off the road. But there’s only so much space for that.

“On secondary roads right now we’re running out of room,” Turnbull said.

And if the snow keeps coming, workers will have to find some creative ways to get all of the snow there. “There are worries,” Turnbull said. “We’re going to have to stack it.”

In the cul-de-sac of Spring Hill Lane near the golf course, snow is piled 15 feet high. The crews may soon have to come in with loaders to remove the snow.

Hervert said, at this point, he fears a monster storm.

“If we were to get an 18-inch storm, I don’t know what we would do,” he said.

‘Banner year’

Pattie Robak-White, owner of Alpine Snow Removal and Trucking, said she’s been hauling a lot of snow downvalley for the last month. Alpine uses a snow dump site in Wolcott, Robak-White said.

“Everybody’s running out of space,” she said. “It’s a banner year for snowplowing.”

She said she took 75 truck loads of snow from River Run apartments in Eagle-Vail in two days recently. And her employees are working a lot of overtime.

Just before Christmas, a lot of businesses want snow hauled off their properties to look their best during the holiday rush.

“A week or two before Christmas, you really start hauling a lot,” she said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14623, or

Vail, Colorado

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