Winter storm blows into Colorado, Vail |

Winter storm blows into Colorado, Vail

Catherine Tsai
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado
Nathan Bilow/APThree friends, from left to right, Brandy VanSeters from Salt Lake City, Utah, Michele McCullough from Salt Lake City, and Amy Titterington from Flagstaff, Ariz, help dig out another friends van for the Mardi Gras Parade that will be in Crested Butte on Tuesday.

DENVER, Colorado ” A storm that dropped nearly 2 feet of snow in parts of Durango and closed several mountain passes in southwest Colorado moved into the central and northern part of the state.

Up to a foot of snow was expected in the central and northern mountains, including Vail. The Front Range, including Denver, was expected to get up to 3 inches.

The snow and difficult driving conditions prompted officials to close the state and county courthouses in Durango and Cortez.

On Sunday, pizza cook Colter Niendorf said it was nearly all white outside the downtown Durango restaurant where he works.

“We don’t have any drivers today because of the snow. We can’t do any deliveries,” he said.

By Sunday afternoon, Fort Lewis College had decided to cancel classes for Monday and said campus offices would be closed.

Heavy snow was expected for all of western Colorado during the storm through Monday, from Aspen through Vail and Steamboat Springs as subtropical moisture mixed with cold air from the north, forecasters said.

The heavy snow and wind were expected to make driving difficult on Interstate 70 from eastern Utah all the way to Vail Pass.

Three men spent the night in their vehicle after an abandoned vehicle blocked their path off of Pinon Mesa. The three were found safe Monday morning, Mesa County sheriff spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.

The avalanche danger was rated high for southwest Colorado but also for areas including Crested Butte and Aspen, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. U.S. 550 at Coal Bank, Molas, and Red Mountain passes were closed, as were Colorado 133 over McClure Pass, west of Aspen, as well as U.S. 160 at Wolf Creek Pass, and U.S. 145 at Lizard Head Pass.

In Antonito near the New Mexico border, Danna Lujan reported near whiteout conditions. “It’s coming down hard,” she said.

In Durango, Niendorf said he shoveled his driveway Sunday morning, then went outside again six hours later to start the car. “The snow looked like it did before I started shoveling,” he said.

Several winter storms have helped push snowpack in southern Colorado far above the 30-year average. Snowpack in the Arkansas River basin in southeast Colorado was 162 percent of average as of Friday, 168 percent of average in the Upper Rio Grande and 158 percent of average in the southwest corner of the state.

Among ski areas, Wolf Creek in southwest Colorado led resorts with a 146 inch base at its mid-mountain reporting station. It reported 26 inches of fresh snow Sunday within the past 24 hours.

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