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Snow dumps on Snowmass

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Jeremy Swanson/Aspen Skiing Co.A skier blasts through deep powder at Snowmass on Thursday. A powerful storm hit the area, dumping nearly a foot in a few hours.
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SNOWMASS VILLAGE – An intense blizzard Thursday morning made a mess of travel in Snowmass Village, but dumped 10 inches on the ski slopes in a few hours.

“It was snowing mighty hard out there. Snowmass got pounded compared to everywhere else,” said Jeff Hanle, spokesman for the Aspen Skiing Co.

Chain laws were in effect in Snowmass Village from about 8:30 a.m. to early afternoon, and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority quit running buses there for about 90 minutes while police dealt with a rash of minor accidents.

On Vail Pass, the spring storm spawned multiple crashes, including a pile-up involving at least two dozen vehicles, that closed Interstate 70 in both directions before 1 p.m. The eastbound lanes reopened at about 5 p.m., but then closed again. Travel remained closed in both directions at 8 p.m., and authorities weren’t sure when the interstate would reopen.

The snow came down wet and heavy on the roads in Snowmass Village, and plow trucks had trouble keeping up until it tapered off, said police Sgt. Brian Olson.

“When it’s coming down so hard, they can throw gravel down, but it just gets buried in the slush,” he said.

Once a motorist got stuck, others who were forced to stop got stuck as well, Olson said.

Two vehicles collided at the intersection of Brush Creek Road and Highway 82, but no injuries were reported. Snow coating the signal lights at the intersection may have been a factor, according to authorities.

On the mountain, Snowmass had 3 inches of new snow at 5 a.m., 9 inches by 9 a.m. and 13 inches by the time the Skico updated its snow report in the early afternoon.

“I don’t think it’s snowed that hard all year. Welcome to April,” Hanle said.

Aspen Mountain reported no new snow early Thursday, but 5 inches by early afternoon, while Aspen Highlands jumped from 2 inches in its morning report to 8 inches later in the day. Buttermilk’s snow total went from 1 inch early Thursday morning to 4 inches by early afternoon.

Visibility on the ski slopes was virtually nil during the heaviest snowfall, and even in downtown Aspen, the squall was almost blinding. A three-block walk across town left pedestrians plastered with snow before the blizzard tapered off quickly. Snow was mostly light throughout the afternoon, but by early evening, it was coming down hard again, and blowing sideways.

The snow resulted in canceled and delayed flights, and at least one rerouted flight at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport. Some air traffic was back on schedule during the afternoon lull in the storm.

The mountains surrounding Aspen were under a winter storm warning until 6 a.m. Friday, and the National Weather Service was predicting 8 to 16 inches of new snow from the storm, which moved into western Colorado during the night Wednesday.

Friday’s forecast called for mostly cloudy skies with a 25 percent chance of snow showers.

janet@aspentimes.com


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