More powder skiing, dodgy driving ahead |

More powder skiing, dodgy driving ahead

Cliff Thompson
Bret Hartman / Vail DailyKen Mason uses his four-wheeler to plow snow off of Eagle Drive Tuesday in Eagle-Vail. Though Friday was sunny, the weather Saturday and Sunday is forecast to be snowy, like it was most of this week.

AVON – Ski resort public relations folks are cheerily chirping about the three feet of new snow on top of their mountains.But that snow has the opposite effect on some drivers on the valley floor, where up to a foot was reported. The weather and driving conditions contributed to dozens of accidents and ditchings throughout the week.Friday’s sunny break in the weather helped clear the roads, but it will only last a day. Heavy snow is forecast for the weekend with lighter snowfall predicted for most of the week.”It’s a fairly potent and moist system,” said Brian Avery of the National Weather Service. “Sunday will be the worst as far as driving conditions with heavy snow and wind.”As occurred with the preceding storm, the heaviest snowfall is expected in the southwestern part of the state. The central mountains, which include Vail and Beaver Creek, are also expected to get significant snowfall.

The snow earlier in the week meant a powder day for skiers like Patrick Crawford, 22, of West Vail, who works for architectural firm in Avon. He was skied four days last week.”Wednesday was pretty heavy,” he said. “(Friday) was the best day of the year for me.”But powder days aren’t all freshies and fun. What the snow bringeth, the snow can take away. Crawford lost a ski after taking a dinger on a run on Vail’s Game Creek, and spent 45 minutes retrieving it.The sunny conditions Friday helped highway maintenance crews, said Jim Pitkin, area maintenance supervisor for highways between East Vail and Dotsero.”A break lets us get everything cleaned up and pushed back and lets us take care of our equipment,” he said. “When it snows hard it stretches us thin.”

Pitkin, who has worked area roads for the last 20 years, said when it snows steadily, like it did earlier in the week, plow drivers sometimes put in 12-hour or longer days trying to keep roads clear. Pitkin put in back-to-back 16 hour days, he said.They also use lots of liquid de-icer. He estimated up to 20,000 gallons of magnesium chloride were used last week by the half-dozen trucks that plow his stretch of highway.The heavy snow brings the water-yielding snowpack in the Colorado River basin up to average after a drier than-normal December, Avery said. Snowpack, which indicates how much water will be available throughout the year, in has been subpar after the last two winters, forcing summer water restrictions.December’s low snowfall in Avon – 4 inches – equaled a record low set in 1976, said weather watcher Frank Doll who has been tracking weather readings since 1968 at his home.

Vail Mountain is reporting a 54-inch base at mid-mountain and 32 inches of new snow in the last week. Beaver Creek is reporting a 52-inch mid-mountain base and 34 inches over the last seven days.Staff Writer Cliff Thompson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 450, or, Colorado

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