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First big snow opens up new terrain and preps towns for winter

Paradise opening this weekend. Queen not far behind

By Mark Reaman

What a difference a little snow makes. This recent storm cycle dropped more than a foot of snow on the Crested Butte Mountain Resort slopes and that has led to a big boost in terrain opening, with more trails and lifts slated to open very soon.

According to CBMR senior marketing manager Erica Rasmussen, the season snow total thus far is 18 inches and that “is the icing on the cake” in the Red Lady Lift area. “This foot of snow allowed us to get a significant number of trails open, raising our current trail count from three on opening day to 16 currently and more planned to be added in the coming days as we open additional lifts,” said Rasmussen.

Rasmussen said Teocalli Lift should open Thursday with Lower Ruby Chief and Ruby access. “But that’s not all,” she said. “We plan on opening the Paradise Lift this Saturday morning, bringing our weekend lift count to six. We will have Red Lady, the Aspen Carpet, the Pine Carpet, Teocalli, Peach Tree, and Paradise open this weekend. We anticipate opening terrain off of both the Teocalli and Paradise Lifts as quickly as possible. Furthermore, skiers and riders this weekend should see us blowing snow heavily on Upper Keystone in an effort to open more upper-level terrain and more of the mountain. We also are excited to announce that we anticipate the opening of the Silver Queen next Wednesday, December 7.”

Rasmussen said the shift to winter with snow and colder temperatures is setting up the resort nicely. “Our snowmakers deserve a huge shout-out as we would not be where we are today without their efforts. Of course, this week’s storm sure helped, and we’re hopeful for a continued combination of snowmaking and natural snow to keep getting more terrain open,” she explained. “We have a robust boot-packing program we plan on implementing in early December as conditions permit.”

The backcountry is setting up for winter but early season conditions exist. See the Crested Butte Avalanche Center’s Backcountry Notes on page 27.

Marshalls are done with warnings. 

Towing is necessary when it snows. Downtown Crested Butte saw just over 11 inches of snow drop between November 27 and November 29.

Luckily, the Town Council had adopted the winter snow management plan the previous week, when rain was more likely than snow.

Despite several nights of issuing warnings to vehicles parked on the wrong side of the road overnight, the Crested Butte marshals had to have several cars towed during the storm. Five vehicles were towed on the morning of November 28 and eight vehicles were towed on the morning of November 29.

Kayce Barnett of the Marshal’s Office had a few tips for people dealing with cars in town. “Park on the correct side of the street. Follow the signs posted on every block. There is a cheat sheet that is great to keep in your car or save to your phone. You can also obtain the cheat sheet off of the Marshal’s Office Facebook page or from the public bulletin board at our office,” Barnett explained.

“Remember that the first 15 feet from the street is public property. If towed, and vehicles do not have a current registration, the owners will need to show proof that the registration is up-to-date prior to their vehicles being released. Vehicles will incur storage fees. Leaving your keys in your vehicle will not result in officers moving your vehicle for you. The towing fee for a vehicle towed for winter parking violations (fees differ for vehicles towed for other reasons) is $175 and the ticket is $25,” said Barnett.

Crested Butte snow management plan details

In the town snow management plan, snow banks on Elk Avenue are no longer the major flashpoint. Instead, the main topic is how the town will oversee snow storage in alleys around town in the winter. Private contractors hired to plow alleys will need a permit and snow cannot pile up on public property.

While the town does not maintain alleys, contractors can be hired by residents to keep them plowed. The town just wants to make sure the snow is hauled away in a timely fashion.

Crested Butte public works director Rodney Due told the Town Council on November 21 that alleys have been a winter problem the last three years.

“Historically, homeowners would hire private contractors to take care of the alleys,” Due explained. “They would push the snow where it didn’t bother anyone. The last three years, however, there are more people living in the alleys and we hear the complaints. They don’t like where the snow is being pushed. Fences are being damaged. Snow is piled too high and dogs can get out of backyards.

“The town can’t do the alleys but it should regulate how they are plowed,” continued Due. “So private contractors working the alleys will need to get permits and understand the rules. Snow has to be hauled out regularly at a certain height and by April 1. If we get a complaint about something from a homeowner, we will know who we need to contact.”

Due said the contractors look for places to stash snow all winter and he reminded them the town rents affordable snow storage space at the town gravel pit.

He told the Town Council that his drivers will commence plowing when three inches of snow accumulates on the streets. The first priority is to keep the bus and emergency vehicle routes open. Those routes are plowed to pavement.

The town crews will peel the snowpack on other streets once it accumulates to six inches.

Due said several plow drivers are living in the north end of the valley so they should be able to respond promptly to snow events. He said the town is losing some snow storage spots and “the list of places we haul snow to gets smaller every year. But it is still working out.”

As for snow banks on Elk Avenue, there is always the debate about keeping the street safer and removing the banks promptly after a storm or letting them be for aesthetics. The current compromise is that the snow banks will be removed between snow events except for the week prior to Christmas and through the week after New Year’s. They can also remain if they are needed to provide additional snow for special events.

Sidewalk snow maintenance is taken care of through the parks and rec department. Parks and rec director Janna Hansen said her crews begin removing snow after one inch of accumulation. Their first priority is the sidewalks along the safe routes to school.

“The cuts in the Elk Avenue snow banks always get some feedback. The cutouts are concentrated in the busiest section of the business district,” Hansen explained. “Private contractors can always be hired to cut additional entryways between the street and the sidewalk but that is up the business’ discretion.”

Due mentioned the warm temperatures that seemed to be lingering into late November. He noted it was actually raining just before the November 21 meeting began at 6 p.m. “Maybe I should be doing a flood management report instead of a snow management report,” he quipped.

Ouch. Given this week’s weather pattern, it appears to have made the switch.

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