Latest storm hampers travel, delights skiers and students
February 5, 2008
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
“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
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
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
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
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