Latest storm hampers travel, delights skiers and students | SummitDaily.com

Latest storm hampers travel, delights skiers and students

ASPEN TIMES STAFF REPORT

ASPEN”The snowstorm that struck the Roaring Fork Valley on Sunday night and Monday

triggered an avalanche that closed McClure Pass, closed schools, delayed

travelers and made weary snow shovelers dream of power tools.

For anyone who could make it to the slopes, all the hassles were worth it.

“People are really excited and that’s great,” said Jeff Hanle, spokesman for

the Aspen Skiing Co. Hanle reported more than 250 inches of snow on area

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mountains so far this season.

Some local skiers claimed Aspen Mountain snow totals were under-reported,

but Hanle said the numbers are up to date (from 9 inches on Aspen to 16

inches on Snowmass in the most recent dump) and reflect a different storm

pattern.

“With these southwesterly storms that have been coming in, Snowmass has beat

the pants off Aspen and Highlands,” he said. “I think it’s a little

unusual.”

The storm dumped more than a foot on the ski slopes and about 8 inches on

the valley floor from Basalt to Glenwood Springs. The storm boosted the

snowpack in the Roaring Fork River basin to 59 percent above average, the

Natural Resources Conservation Service reported Monday.

With more than a foot of new snow falling on local streets, Jerry Nye,

director of the Aspen Streets Department, said his crews were out by

midnight Sunday and were expecting to be out at about the same time Monday

night.

He said the snow removal effort involved 20 hired dump trucks, as well as

the city’s three motorgraders, two front-end loaders and two dump trucks.

And, he said, the official snow dump site, next to the Pitkin County Animal

Shelter along Highway 82, is “at its max” for normal use. As a result, he

said, his crews have been locating temporary storage sites “all over town,”

including a number of city parks and vacant lots.

Some locals have asked whether the city erred in getting rid of its snowmelt

machine, which used to operate at the old snow dump site next to Rio Grande

Park in town.

But Nye said the machine, while it had its useful moments when it was in

operation, “wouldn’t have helped us out this year” because it could not have

kept pace with the volume of snow that have fallen lately.

Ticking off the seven official storms that have dumped on Aspen since early

January, Nye said his crews have hauled 2,303 loads to various sites,

counting only the removal effort from Main Street and the commercial core of

the city. If you added in the side streets, neighborhoods and peripheral

cleanings, he said, “I’m sure we’d have more like 4,000 loads.”

That, he said, compares to the 724 loads the city hauled in all of January

2007.

Meanwhile, Highway 133 over McClure Pass was closed until 5 p.m. Monday

after at least one avalanche covered the road in snow and other slides were

a posed threat.

“It’s really bad. Slides have come down,” Colorado Department of

Transportation (CDOT) spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said Monday morning. “It’s

not safe right now to do the work they need to do.”

Shanks said she didn’t have information about when the avalanche closed the

road. There were no reports of the slide catching any travelers.

The road was blocked at mile marker 40, near the top of McClure Pass, Shanks

said. The area reported 17 inches of snow Sunday and Sunday night.

Crews had to trigger other slides and then clear debris. CDOT reported the

road reopened at 5 p.m. Chains were required for all commercial vehicles and

vans with a capacity for 16 or more passengers.

Plows had trouble keeping up with the snow on Highway 82 and on city

streets. Morning commuters faced snowpacked roads before 9 a.m. Even after

CDOT plows hit Highway 82 in force, icy conditions still remained.

Several inches of snow hampered travel in Glenwood Springs. Vehicles that

ventured in the unplowed turning lanes risked getting stuck.

Schools throughout the Roaring Fork School District, which includes Basalt,

Carbondale and Glenwood Springs, were closed Monday. It was the second time

they were closed this school year. That’s the first time that has happened

in an unknown number of years. School administrators weren’t available for

comment on school cancellation records.

Public and private schools in Aspen also called off classes.

Many workers undoubtedly wanted to head to the slopes rather than their

jobs, but it was business as usual at many offices and establishments. The

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority reported delays for its buses but no

major problems. Travelers in the upper valley dealt with snowpacked and icy

roads, along with the typical heavy traffic volume.

And, of course, shovelers throughout the valley lamented another challenge

of clearing snow off their driveways and over the mounds towering along

their driveways.

Bob Bailey, a clerk at Ace Hardware in Carbondale, reported that the store

has been cleaned out of snow blowers, roof rakes and shovels this winter.

The store hopes to restock shovels and roof rakes, but people hoping to

upgrade to the heavier equipment probably are out of luck.

“We can’t even get snow blowers any more,” Bailey said.

Staff writers Charles Agar, John Colson and Scott Condon contributed to this

report.