Strong snow is in the forecast and Vail Valley businesses are getting ready
A storm at the end of the week could really snarl travel in the high country
EAGLE COUNTY — Steve Carver has seen this weather forecast before, and he’s ready.
Carver is the owner of Gypsum-based Big Steve’s Towing, a company that handles everything from “motorcycles to big rigs,” he said.
Motorcycles aren’t much of a concern right now, but when a big snowstorm is forecast, Carver and his employees can often be found on Vail Pass, clearing accidents from around the road.
That work can take time.
In fact, Carver said, his company has trucks up on Vail Pass as soon as the Colorado Department of Transportation imposes the chain law. Trucks stay on the pass until the chain law is lifted.
Carver’s personal record is four days and three nights on the pass without going home.
All the drivers bring plenty of clothing, food and drinks to last for a few days.
As of Monday, Carver and his drivers were getting themselves ready for what could be a pretty serious storm.
The forecast shows the coming storm moving out of the high country toward the end of Tuesday. And this storm is expected to hit harder on Colorado’s Eastern Slope.
Lionshead uploading to begin
But enough snow had fallen by Monday afternoon that Vail Resorts announced that uploading will begin on Born Free Express (No. 8) to connect to Vail Mountain via Cub’s Way and Avanti Express. Guests will be able to ski from the top of Avanti down to Mid-Vail. Skiers and riders will have to download to Vail via Gondola One, and guests can ride the town’s free buses back to Lionshead.
The forecast for Vail shows little snow Nov. 27 and 28, but another system is ramping up to hit — and possibly hit hard — on Black Friday into Saturday.
Kris Sanders, a meteorologist in the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, said a “steady stream of moisture” will produce moderate to heavy snow across western Colorado beginning Friday.
“We’re trying to tell people to plan,” Sanders said, adding that snow levels could drop enough that even lower-elevation sites such as Grand Junction could get a pretty good shot of snow.
That’s good, of course — ski areas need powder and the state needs a healthy snowpack for next year’s water supplies.
But travel could get tricky.
Sally Alward is the general manager of the Doubletree by Hilton in Vail. Alward said that the hotel has already seen a few cancellations into the evening of Nov. 26.
But much of the hotel’s holiday business is coming later in the week.
If the storm later in the week puts a closed highway between the Vail Valley and home, rooms can be rebooked, Alward said. The hotel will also offer specials to travelers who find themselves stuck at the western end of Vail Pass.
At the Evergreen Lodge, general manager Brian Butts said that the hotel also works with walk-in customers as needed. The hotel did a lot of walk-in business during a storm over Thanksgiving in 2018, Butts said.
On the other hand, Butts said much of Vail’s Thanksgiving business is either drive-up traffic from the Front Range or second-home owners coming into town for the holiday weekend. True destination guests — those coming in from out of state — generally wait until a bit later in the season, he said.
Eye on the backcountry
Snow will fall in the local backcountry, of course, which could lead to increased avalanche danger.
At the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Mike Cooperstein said the mountains in Eagle and Summit counties could see several inches of new snow from the early-week storm. While fresh snow atop old snow is generally a recipe for avalanche conditions, Cooperstein said the danger should stay moderate into mid-week, since slides would be easily triggered, but relatively small.
But, he added, the snow predicted for later in the week could bump up the weekend danger to “considerable” in the area.
Like travelers who need the right equipment in their vehicles, Cooperstein said those venturing into the backcountry need to understand the conditions and have the right equipment.
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.
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