Vail Valley hit Monday by a strong morning ‘snow squall’
Blowing snow snarled traffic, forced a morning closure of I-70
Stacey Boltz has lived in the Vail Valley for more than 30 years. She’s never seen a blizzard like the one that hit Monday morning during the peak go-to-work period.
Strong snow and high winds combined to create near-zero visibility on the roads Monday morning. Boltz tried to take her kids from the family’s home up Lake Creek to Vail Mountain School, and couldn’t make the trip, turning around at the Minturn exit. Round trip it took more than an hour.
“It was one of the worst days I’ve ever seen,” Boltz said. “At Dowd (Junction), it was like a tornado.”
The wind and snow combination prompted the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction to issue a “snow squall” warning for much of the central Rockies.
The wind and snow forced the Colorado Department of Transportation to close eastbound Interstate 70 from East Vail to the top of Vail Pass. The department also shut down U.S. Highway 40 between Kremmling and Steamboat Springs. State Highway 14 east of Steamboat was also shut down.
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Transportation department spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said visibility was one of the main problems on Vail Pass. In addition, there was enough snow that traction could be a problem at “the narrows” stretch of highway about halfway between East Vail and the top of the pass.
The interstate was closed for a bit less than 90 minutes, until the worst of the squall cleared.
Vail Police Sgt. Chris Botkins said that relatively brief closure went fairly smoothly, with most interstate traffic routed into the town’s parking structures. Parking in those structures is free for those who are diverted off the interstate.
Those who brought skis to Vail today were rewarded by some outstanding conditions.
Troy Goldberg owns Troy’s Ski Shop in Vail Village.
Talking to customers after a morning on the mountain, Goldberg said some were reporting the “best day of their lives.” Those who headed into the trees reported that the wind blew the new snow 2 feet deep in places.
The Weather Service has only recently issued snow squall warnings. Those warnings come when a combination of wind and snow create hazardous driving conditions.
Meteorologist Tom Renwick with the National Weather Service said those strong winds included a 56-mph blast reported at the Aspen airport.
Boltz, who posted her experience on her myepicday.com blog, said she was just happy to get home Monday morning.
“At (Post Boulevard in Avon) you couldn’t differentiate the roundabout from the roadway,” Boltz said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at email@example.com or 970-748-2930.