Roads ‘as miserable as any other year’ in Vail |

Roads ‘as miserable as any other year’ in Vail

Chris Outcalt
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” The conditions on Interstate 70 have been bad during the last week, said Chris Cooke, a tow truck driver for the West Vail Shell station. But they’re always bad at this time of year, he said.

“They’re as miserable as any other year,” Cooke said.

A series of storms have created icy, snow covered conditions on Interstate 70 during the last week, and the Colorado Department of Transportation says it’s handling the weather the way it always does ” monitoring the storms and working until the roads are clear.

When a storm is headed for the Vail Valley, crews switch to 12-hour shifts and, depending on the temperature, treat the highway with either a liquid de-icer or a sand and salt mixture. When the storm arrives, they start plowing.

“We’ve had several storms in our higher areas this winter, and now we’re seeing winter hit our lower elevations as well ” it’s keeping crews busy,” said Del French, CDOT’s Grand Junction maintenance superintendent.

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Toby Brown, deputy maintenance director for CDOT, said despite several days in a row of snowfall, it’s been a typical start to the winter.

“We haven’t had what I would consider an unusual winter yet,” Brown said. “It’s been fairly standard as far as the road conditions.”

Last year, CDOT started using a computer system in their plow trucks that predicts road and weather conditions and suggests how to clear the snow and ice from the roads. It allows the crews to be more efficient, Brown said.

The drivers get out ahead of the storms to treat the roads before the snow hits.

“They don’t sit at home until it starts snowing,” said Brown. “They’re on shifts.”

Once the weather hits the area, crews typically plow the roads in pairs to be able to move the snow out of the way more effectively, Brown said.

“We keep going until it’s done,” Brown said. “Last year, it started snowing in beginning of December, and we worked 57 days straight. This year, it started snowing a week and a half ago, and it has been pretty steady.”

Raven Walker commutes to Vail from Red Cliff. He said the roads have been bad, but not any worse than most years.

“They’ve definitely been sketchy,” Walker said. “Highway 24 has been busy ” a lot of people being towed.”

There haven’t been any more accidents on the Interstate this year than usual, Colorado State Patrol Sgt. Marshall Schwarz said.

“I would have expected more than we’ve had. Whenever the roads are bad you expect to cover crashes,” Schwarz said. “It’s been fairly standard as far as the road conditions.”

Andrei Litviakou, owner of Affordable Towing, said he’s been fairly busy so far this year, but that the road conditions aren’t unusual.

“There is ice on the road,” Litviakou said. “For this time of year, I think it’s pretty typical.”

The transportation department has had to tighten its budget some, but it hasn’t affected staffing, Brown said.

“The staff we have is what we have,” Brown said. “We can’t go out and hire, but it’s the same amount of people we’ve had for the last 20 years. We’re pretty fortunate we’ve got a pretty stable workforce.”

A lack of funding has kept the department from replacing some of the plow trucks.

“We’ve got an aging fleet, but there’s not enough money out there right now,” Brown said.

Staff Writer Chris Outcalt can be reached at 970-748-2931 or

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