Summit County snow: Where does it go? |

Summit County snow: Where does it go?

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

It’s a familiar sight in the High Country: Snow piles so high they block the views from first-floor windows and line the streets like castle walls. But with the snow falling heavier than normal this year, where is it all going?

John Polhemus, director of the Summit County Road and Bridge Department, said all of the snow falling on county roads gets moved to the road’s right-of-ways (ROW); areas on the sides of roads averaging 60 feet in width and designated for snow storage, drainage, signage and utilities. He said the county doesn’t haul snow; just pushes it back. Polhemus said one of the biggest problems with plowing are cars parked illegally in the designated ROW areas. Summit County Government’s website says it is the responsibility of the property owner to provide adequate parking off of the ROW.

The road and bridge department deals with snow removal and maintenance of 146 miles of county roads during the winter. Dillon Dam Road, Swan Mountain Road and school bus routes are given first priority.

Karen Shackles, owner of the snow-plowing company Alpine Ventures in Silverthorne, said they must dispose of snow on the property they are plowing it from. Shackles said most commercial properties have adequate snow storage – like large parking lots – but some residential homes may not. She said it can be an issue if the driveway isn’t constructed with snow storage, and the company will communicate with the owners about where to put it. She said sometimes owners might not like where piles must be placed on their property, but there might not be an alternative. It’s illegal to plow it onto county or town roads.

Shackles said some companies have illegally dumped snow on town property, but towns are often watching to make sure that doesn’t happen.

In Breckenridge, snow from the streets and sidewalks gets hauled to “block 11”; a lot just south of CMC. Kim DiLallo, communications director for the town, said snow piles in the lot do get big, but they have a fair amount of space to store it. She said snow piles in town are bigger this year due to heavy snow fall and budget cuts, which have affected the plowing and removing of snow. She said the budget cuts have been in place for the past two years, but this year’s snowfall has made reduced staffing more noticeable.

“This year it is more prevalent,” she said. “We’re managing as best we can.”

DiLallo said roads and sidewalks in Breckenridge are plowed in order of priority: the town’s core and transit system pathways, streets within about a one-mile radius of the core, and then remaining streets within town limits.

Summit County Government’s website says they regret that snow might be pushed into driveways, but there is no other choice.

“Lifting the plow blade at every driveway entrance would create a ridge of snow in the road, and would lengthen plowing time considerably,” the site says.

It is the responsibility of the property owner to take care of snow in their driveways.

Shackles said her company sometimes has to go back to a residence they’ve already plowed to remove snow and ice berms pushed back into the driveway by town or county plow trucks.

“That’s what they have to do to keep the roads clear,” she said. “It’s a necessary evil.”

DiLallo said Breckenridge has done its best to teach residents what the town can take care of, and what residents need to take care of themselves.

“It’s been a real education process in terms of what (the town’s) responsibilities are,” she said.

Shackles said her company has plowed nine-and-a-half feet of snow so far this year, compared to only three feet at the same time last year.

Polhemus said this year’s snowfall has been heavy but manageable because of breaks between storms.

Polhemus said when snowbanks become large, they become tempting to kids who want to dig tunnels through them. He said parents of the county should be cautious about where their children play.

“It’s not a very safe practice,” he said.

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