Vail Valley snowstorm starts with a bang, expected to last until Wednesday | VailDaily.com
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Vail Valley snowstorm starts with a bang, expected to last until Wednesday

Storm contributes to Monday morning accidents on Interstate 70 from Vail Pass to Gypsum

New snowmaking machinery at higher elevations on Vail Mountain will allow an earlier Opening Day, but the the mountain's first access will be from Vail Village, not Lionshead.
Courtesy Vail Resorts
You've been warned A winter storm warning has been issued for much of the northern and central Rocky Mountains from 12 a.m. Oct. 29 through 6 p.m. Oct. 30.

According to the warning from the Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service, snow accumulations of between 5 and 12 inches could hit much of the area. As much as 16 inches is possible in higher elevations.

Besides the snow, wind gusts up to 40 mph are predicted.

EAGLE COUNTY — A predicted multi-day storm came in with a rush late Sunday, dropping several inches of snow from Vail to Gypsum.

Vail Mountain and Beaver Creek aren’t yet reporting base depths — the resorts’ opening days aren’t until Nov. 15 and Nov. 27 — but Vail reported 5 inches of new snow as of early Monday morning. Beaver Creek reported 4 inches of new snow Monday.

The early-season storm isn’t done yet. The Grand Junction office of the National Weather Service Monday predicted a 50% chance of snow showers Monday night in Vail. The Tuesday forecast for Vail predicted at least an 80% chance of snow showers, with a 60% chance for Wednesday.

Cold temperatures are also in the forecast, with overnight lows dropping as low as -7 degrees Wednesday night. Daytime highs for Vail through Wednesday range from the 20s to the teens.

The forecast calls for clearing skies starting Thursday, with daytime highs in Vail topping 40 degrees by Sunday.

A good sign?

There’s a lot of fall and winter in front of us, of course, but this month’s storms have given a good start to the new “water year” — roughly October through May for accumulating snowpack.

Becky Bolinger, assistant state climatologist of the Colorado Climate Center at Colorado State University, said October snows are no guarantee of a good season to come. But, she added, it is a good bet.

Bolinger said that a recent study she did showed that cool, snowy October weather is usually a good sign of the season to come. Over the last decade, there have been a couple of exceptions — the state’s winter recovered from a warmer, dryer October 2017, and 2012 started well before turning into one of the driest winters on record.

Bolinger said that snowy weather in October helps keep conditions cool enough for snow to accumulate in the mountains.

“It’s hard to have a warmer-than-average November with early snow,” Bolinger said.

While it’s unlikely any record-low temperatures will be recorded, October of this year hasn’t had many unseasonably warm days, Bolinger said.

And, of course, the current early snow cover varies from the northern part of the state to the south.

Southern Colorado hasn’t received much snow far, Bollinger said. Meanwhile, early snow from about Vail to Steamboat Springs has ranged from “good” to “spectacular,” she said.

That snow is great news for skiers and resort operators, of course. Eldora Mountain Resort announced over the weekend that it would move its opening date from Nov. 15 to Nov. 1.

Vail and Beaver Creek haven’t made any announcements of early openings — at least not yet.

Hannah Dixon, Vail Resorts senior communications specialist, wrote in an email that the resorts are currently making snow and preparing for their scheduled opening days.

Cold weather helps snowmaking. And, Dixon added, early snow has grooming crews working to add more terrain. The snow “gives us more of a base to work with as we groom trails,” Dixon wrote.

Be careful on the roads

While mostly welcome, the first wave of the storm contributed to a number of accidents around the valley Sunday into Monday. The Eagle County alert system at one point Monday morning reported accidents within minutes of each other on Interstate 70 on Vail Pass and on I-70 between Eagle and Gypsum.

Colorado Department of Transportation representative Bob Wilson wrote in an email that plow crews in the mountain corridor spend all the winter months on “snow shifts,” working 12 hours on and 12 hours off.

Those shifts are used on an as-needed basis elsewhere in the state. Wilson wrote that plow crews switch to snow shifts when there’s a lot of snow in the forecast.

Wilson added that maintenance crews around the state meet before forecast storms to review what materials and manpower are available. Equipment and people are then moved around to fill needs around the state.

With snow in the forecast for both the mountain corridor and the Front Range, those crews may have a lot of work to do for the next couple of days.

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at smiller@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2930.


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