Morning storm drops up to 14 inches |

Morning storm drops up to 14 inches

Reed Taylor, of Michigan, gets bountiful face shots in Larkspur Bowl on Thursday in Beaver Creek. Visiting for nearly two weeks, Taylor says he had been waiting for a day like this since arriving.
Chris Dillmann | |

The forecast

Here’s the National Weather Service’s forecast for Vail through the weekend:

• Friday: Patchy fog, otherwise sunny. High temperature: 12.

• Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 23.

• Sunday: A 40 percent chance of snow showers. High temperature: 34.

EAGLE COUNTY — Residents awoke Thursday to mixed messages. Anyone awake after sunrise saw a lot of snow. But the home pages for the Vail and Beaver Creek ski resorts reported only 3 inches of new powder.

That number can be a bit deceptive. Sally Gunter, the senior communications manager for Vail and Beaver Creek, said the resort home pages report new accumulation from 5 a.m. to 5 a.m. Between that time Wednesday morning and Thursday morning, only 3 inches of snow fell at the resorts. In fact, the 48-hour total starting at 5 a.m. on Tuesday had only 4 inches of new snow.

Check the websites

And then the storm settled in. Gunter, who lives in the Edwards area, saw the snow total on the web page. Then she looked outside, where the grill was covered in white, and grabbed her gear.

Gunter said she was in a lift line at Beaver Creek at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday. By then, there was 10 inches of snow on the measuring stake on the mountain. The snowstakes at both Beaver Creek and Vail are on web cameras. On snow days, viewers can watch a time-lapse of how much snow has fallen.

Buzz Schleper, owners of Buzz’s Boards in Vail Village, was in his shop Thursday. He’s due for knee surgery soon, so he hasn’t been on the mountain in a while. But, Schleper said, employees at the shop came off the hill in a good mood.

“I had one employee tell me it was knee- to thigh-high in the Back Bowls,” Schleper said.

The new snow is good for business, too.

“We’re rented out today,” Schleper said. “There are still a lot of people in town, so we have people who’ve already rented, and people who want to go up.”

This is all good news for skiers and boarders, of course, but for a lot of people in the valley, “snow” is just another way to spell “work.”

The hard work

Trevor Theelke owns Rocky Top Services, which provides snowplowing for clients throughout the valley.

Theelke said the big snow came Wednesday, but to the western part of the valley.

“We had a foot in Eagle but hardly anything in Edwards Wednesday,” Theelke said.

When the big storms come, plow drivers need to have plenty of coffee on hand.

“It really is just nonstop,” Theelke said. “By the time we’re done (with clients) we have to go back and start all over again.”

The good news is that there aren’t many valley-wide storms in any given winter, he said. But planning for those storms is essential, and even with good planning, there’s still a lot to go wrong.

While private plow companies handle driveways, the Colorado Department of Transportation handles Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 6. Like private plow services, big storms tax the state’s resources, and require careful planning.

Tracy Trulove, spokeswoman for the state transportation district that includes Eagle County, said plow drivers were brought east from Glenwood Springs to help along Interstate 70 Thursday morning. Plow drivers work 12-hour shifts, and all the trucks run virtually nonstop during big storms.

Please slow down

Plows on the roads can be involved in accidents, often caused by motorists trying to pass the bigger vehicles.

Trulove said there haven’t been many plow-car accidents this winter, but a car hit a plow Thursday morning on State Highway 13 between Rifle and Meeker. The motorist apparently was trying to pass stopped traffic, crossed the center line of the road and collided with the truck.

Many of the accidents between motorists and official vehicles is attributed to people simply driving too fast for conditions.

Between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. Thursday, several accidents were reported in Glenwood Canyon. Most were single-car crashes, and most were due to excessive speed.

“It’s a constant problem, and it shouldn’t be if people are paying attention,” Trulove said.

At the Eagle River Fire Protection District, spokeswoman Tracy LeClair echoed the request for motorists to slow down and move over if possible when a vehicle is stopped along the shoulder of the road.

The fire department responds to most traffic accidents in a district that stretches from the top of Tennessee Pass to Wolcott. Besides those calls, LeClair said crews this week have also been responding to a number of medical calls including falls.

We live in the mountains, so it’s going to snow. LeClair said she hopes people are able to enjoy the new powder. But, she added, people need to be careful trying to get to the slopes, whether in a vehicle or on foot.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, and @scottnmiller.

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