Colorado snow disrupts Denver, boosts ski resorts
and Aspen Times staff
Aspen, CO Colorado
DENVER – A heavy, wet spring snowstorm forced airlines to cancel scores of flights at the Denver airport on Wednesday and left thousands of people without power. In the mountains, most ski resorts picked up about six inches of new snow.
Tree branches sagged and snapped under the weight of the snow in the Denver area, where dozens of schools canceled classes and the state Legislature declared a snow day, canceling House and Senate sessions as well as committee meetings.
Traffic was light for Denver’s morning rush.
“Some folks maybe decided they didn’t have to travel, so they just stayed home,” said Gene Towne of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
The National Weather Service said 23 inches of snow fell by Wednesday morning in Jefferson County west of Denver and about 9 inches in Denver. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center issued an avalanche warning for Front Range mountains.
Eldora ski area near Boulder picked up 18 inches of new snow, but the Western Slope saw lesser amounts. Aspen-area ski slopes picked up 5 to 7 inches of fresh snow.
Still, the storm boosted the mountain snowpack, which accounts for much of Colorado’s water when it melts during the warm months. As of Wednesday, the snow totals were below average in the northern half of the state and roughly average in the south.
Denver International Airport estimated up to 5,000 people spent Tuesday night there after their flights were canceled Tuesday. Airport workers passed out cots and blankets.
The airport’s three busiest airlines – United, Frontier and Southwest – together canceled nearly 150 arrivals and departures Wednesday. The canceled flights had a ripple effect in Aspen, where a number of flights were delayed Wednesday morning.
Xcel Energy said about 7,500 customers, mostly in the Denver area, were still without power Wednesday morning. About 45 crews were working to restore power by 5 p.m. About 36,400 customers lost power at various times after snow started falling Tuesday, Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Henley said.
In the mountains, U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass was closed for avalanche control and because of hazardous conditions. Farther west, Colorado 65 near Grand Junction also was closed for avalanche control. Chain laws for commercial vehicles were in effect for much of Interstate 70 through the mountains, including Vail Pass.
On the plains in southeastern Colorado, a jackknifed semitrailer and snow closed U.S. 287 between Springfield and Lamar.
In Aspen, Tuesday evening’s wet snow froze overnight, coating streets with a thick sheet of ice that kept vehicles and pedestrians moving gingerly Wednesday morning.
Aspen Mountain was reporting 6 inches of new snow – on top of 21 inches of new snow that piled up last weekend. Snowmass reported 7 inches over the past 24 hours; it has seen 25 inches of new snow since the weekend storm that moved in Friday. Aspen Highlands picked up 5 inches (24 since last weekend) and Buttermilk reported 5 inches (23 since last weekend).
Aspen’s forecast calls for another inch of snow Wednesday, with highs in the 30s. Sunny skies are predicted Thursday morning, before skies become mostly cloudy, with highs of 35 to 45, according to the National Weather Service. Snow is back in the forecast Friday and Friday night; snow showers are expected Saturday, with highs in the 30s.
The avalanche rating in the Aspen area on Wednesday is considerable on northwest, north and northeast aspects above treeline, according to the CAIC. The danger is moderate on other slopes, above, near and below treeline.
The CAIC’s avalanche warning for Front Range mountains is in effect through Thursday at noon. Heavy snowfall has created dangerous conditions, and natural and human-triggered avalanches are likely, according to the CAIC. Avalanches in the new snow could overwhelm deep weak layers and trigger large, destructive avalanches, the agency said. The deepest accumulations are east of the Continental Divide, and south of Rocky Mountain National Park.
At ski resorts elsewhere around the state, Powderhorn reported 10 inches of new snow over the past 24 hours, while Breckenridge picked up 8 inches. Most resorts reported totals in the 5- to 6-inch range, though Steamboat had 2 inches, Telluride reported 3, and Wolf Creek and Crested Butte both picked up just an inch.
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