Too much snow in Aspen? |

Too much snow in Aspen?

Paul Conrad The Aspen Times

ASPEN ” Can a ski town have too much snow?

City of Aspen officials think so, and they’re running out of places to put it all.

“We’ve got the best snow we’ve ever had,” Mayor Mick Ireland said. “But there are legitimate safety concerns.”

With 33 inches of fresh snow reported on local mountains in the last week and more on the way, snow removal crews have their hands full just clearing Main Street and the downtown core, according to Jerry Nye, director of the city’s street department.

Aspen side streets are becoming too narrow because of snow banks, and the snow dump near the Aspen Airport Business Center is filling up, Nye said.

As of Jan. 2, private contractors had hauled off 1,950 12-yard loads of snow, compared with 1,279 loads for the entire 2005-06 winter season, street department officials said.

Nye said his crew of 10 and some 17 subcontractors with dump trucks have no problem hauling snow from smaller storms out of town, but recent back-to-back dumps have slowed the process.

Crews remove snow from the front and back of abandoned cars on city streets, but parking department staff said the city impound lot is full, and continued snows are turning cars into giant snow banks, Nye said.

At a City Council work session Tuesday, Ireland asked for solutions and members of city departments, including the Aspen police, community safety, parking, parks and city street brainstormed solutions.

Crews temporarily will dump excess snow wherever they can, including the Koch Park parking area and a vacant lot along Castle Creek that city officials bought for affordable housing in 2007 for $5.4 million.

Crews also might take excess snow and abandoned vehicles to the Intercept Lot near the intersection of Brush Creek and Highway 82, officials said, but City Manager Steve Barwick stressed that any use of the space would require approval from both Pitkin County and Town of Snowmass Village officials.

Ireland recommended city staff “spend what it takes to keep it safe.”

“We’ve seen snowstorms like this, but residents have had five, six, seven years of mild winters,” Nye said, and many people concerned over snow removal just aren’t used to that much snow.

The picture isn’t pretty in the county, either.

“All of our typical snow storage areas are full,” said Brian Pettet, director of Pitkin County Public Works. “We’re not even halfway through the season, and we’ve reached our capacity.”

On rural county roads, crews push snow over embankments and into ditches, Pettet said, and there is usually plenty of space.

“But most roads in the county are virtual tunnels right now,” Pettet said, and he urged caution on curves and at intersections. “A low car can’t be seen in the roundabout right now.”

Pettet said county staff are working alongside city officials to find solutions.

Pitkin County does not have a certified snow dump, but Pettet said crews might start hauling snow to a spot at the county landfill.

“People are becoming upset because they aren’t receiving the snow removal they’re used to,” Pettet said. “It is ironic that here we are in a resort community that relies on skiing and we have many people complaining about the volumes of snow we’re seeing. … That’s why we moved here in the first place.”

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