Powerful storm brings big snow to the area
EAGLE COUNTY ” Sometimes, the breaks come just when they’re supposed to.
With Vail Mountain scheduled to open Friday, a powerful storm moved through the Central Rockies over the weekend and Monday, leaving feet of fresh snow, but not much havoc.
“It hasn’t been that bad,” said Sgt. Shawn Olmstead of the Colorado State Patrol. “We’ve had some delays, and some slide-offs, but not that many accidents.”
While the weekend storm did put plenty of snow on the high-elevation highways, Olmstead said it appears that drivers seem ready for winter driving.
“This is the second or third snowstorm we’ve had,” he said. “Winter’s here and people seem to be slowing down.”
Highway crews were doing their best to keep up with the snow. Area Maintenance Supervisor Jim Pitkin of the Colorado Department of Transportation said the highways, by and large, remained in good shape.
“We had an icy bridge near Wolcott that caught some people off guard this morning,” Pitkin said Monday. “But it’s going pretty well.”
Pitkin’s crews have been helping out on Vail Pass, since Summit County-based road crews aren’t at full strength yet. But the roads have been getting regular, if not round-the-clock, attention.
Despite the best efforts of the plow crews, though, Interstate 70 was closed between East Vail and Idaho Springs Monday afternoon, thanks to another wintry blast out of the west.
“You might get another foot overnight,” National Weather Service Forecaster Dave Nadler said Monday afternoon.
But the most recent storm is all the snow expected for at least the next several days.
“This is a powerful system, but it should be out of here by tomorrow morning,” Nadler said Monday afternoon.
What Nadler called “significant snowfall” will be followed by a day or two of frigid temperatures. The forecast high for Vail today is a brisk 19 degrees, according to the Weather Channel Web site.
Temperatures for Vail aren’t predicted to hit the 40s again until the weekend. That’s also the next time more snow is forecast.
But cold weather is good for snowmaking, and between two and three feet of snow at Mid Vail is the best news a ski resort can ask for.
“It’s absolutely perfect timing,” said Vail Resorts Spokewoman Jen Brown. “We always hope Mother Nature cooperates. And this sets us up to have a great base for opening day.”
A good shot of natural snow affects how much terrain Vail will open Friday, but which runs will be open on the first day will depend on how the natural and man-made snow fill in the mountain’s trail system.
“It’s kind of like a puzzle,” Brown said.
Depending on the year, huge chunks of Vail’s terrain can open very early in the season.
“In 2002, we had seven feet of snow fall on Vail Mountain in October and November,” Brown said. “We had the back bowls open by Thanksgiving.”
While avid skiers are champing at the bit to get on the mountain, Brown said those skiers need to be careful picking spots to hike up and ski down.
“We are not open yet,” Brown said. “We really need people to pay attention to closed areas.”
There’s still a lot of construction activity on the mountain, Brown said, and a lot of equipment and vehicles are being shuttled around before Friday. There’s also grooming equipment on the mountain in the daytime now, Brown said.
Besides the equipment on the mountain, Brown said there are still plenty of areas on Vail Mountain with unstable snow.
“The ski patrol hasn’t gotten to all those areas yet,” Brown said. “Backcountry-type conditions can exist.
“We really want people to let us do our jobs right now.”
Staff Writer Scott N. Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14624, or email@example.com.
Vail Daily, Vail Colorado