The forecast says it could be sunny January 2! Until then, don’t put away the shovel. And when the snowstorm does finally depart this weekend, it looks like it’ll be pretty darn cold with highs for a day or two in the single digits. This is a weed-out-the-posers stretch of weather. The key is to be where you are and pace yourself. Breathe and use your legs when you shovel. You are living a high mountain ski town adventure!
As the snow stream looks like it could end up dumping more than 100 inches of all kinds of fresh over two weeks, we are in the midst of one of those epic storms. The Santa Slammer, the New Year’s Apocalypse, Snowmageddon! Some was wet and heavy. Some was light and fluffy. It was the type of storm a ski town loves but it comes with work and frankly, danger. The backcountry is going to be epic in every way for a long time, so don’t rush out there. Roof slides will likely be common and they’ve taken our friends before so stay mindful. Be careful. Be aware. Have fun. Stay safe. What is open on the mountain is soft and probably the best place to play in the snow. Think of all this as an adventure and not just a pain in the butt.
Of course, there is the more mundane that comes with such a monster storm. Moving snow with little shovels or heavy machinery is constant. There are giant mounds of snow piled up as they get moved from one place to another. The hum of snow blowers is constant. The streets, including Elk Avenue, have at times become so narrow that they were basically one-lane roads. The Mountain Express couldn’t drive down Elk Monday evening without the threat of scraping an oncoming vehicle, so they didn’t. Now parking is limited to the south side only. But it sure is pretty…who doesn’t love snowbanks? It’s the stuff postcards are made of so be sure to appreciate that view.
There was of course some weirdness with this storm. The first wave saw the snow melt as it was dropping. Roofs slid in the warm overnight temperatures. It was and is dangerous in the backcountry and underneath the eaves of buildings. It rained in December in Gunnison, known as one of the coldest spots in the nation. Weird.
The ski area wasn’t the most vocal about why, during the busiest week of the season, the East River lift and popular ski trails like International were not open. I assume like almost every business in the valley, a shortage of workers had an impact as did the potential avy danger. But it would be nice to be in the loop. Small town griping is a tradition so getting the word out heads off the rumor mill and might actually gain some respect for the company doing its best. We all are experiencing the challenges so let’s be in it together.
Of course, one friend noted it may be on purpose as the new CBMR branding of “Be Wild” could mean purposely having a backcountry experience with less grooming on blue runs and putting Epic pass people into a wild pack of thousands of fellow skiers herding up around the same runs and chairlifts. It might be difficult, but the corporation should learn to trust and be part of the community…that actually is at times…wild.
With this much snow coming at once there are fewer places to store it as the town has filled in with growth. Vacant lots used for storage in the past now have million dollar homes on them. The town gravel pit, a place mentioned for potential housing units, is filling up fast with snow.
As the snowbanks grow in town and everywhere in the North Valley, drivers should remember that pedestrians essentially share the road with vehicles so slow the F down. Seriously. Dogs and kids can’t see the cars until they’re close. Drivers can’t see a pet or a kid pop out from behind a snow mound. In this weather slowing down won’t get you to your destination any slower. So chill out and be safe.
Like everything else, the public transportation is sometimes struggling. The RTA buses didn’t always make it up to the Mt. CB base area given the slickness of Gothic Road. There were times people had to take the Mountain Express bus to catch the RTA bus. A friend who lives out by CB South said it took he and his wife about three hours to get from the base area to their home when the buses were hobbled and his car was stuck. “What a Christmas Eve adventure!” he exclaimed.
It was like we were all watching the fuse burn for the first 50 inches and Tuesday morning’s additional foot blew the bomb. The line of cars coming into town Tuesday at about 8:30 a.m. was giant as this was projected to be one of the busiest tourist days of the busy week. That culminated at about 10 o’clock with a huge Gothic Road traffic jam from the ski area to the Gas Cafe when the parking lots in Mt. CB totally filled up. The ski resort was all dressed up with nowhere to go and so even the Mountain Express couldn’t roll for a few rounds. Traffic cones went out on Elk to limit parking. Adventure!
The same has been true with hiking the mountain, something many do several times a week on AT skis. It often has not been allowed the last two weeks since the red light on tower 3 of Warming House Hill is blinking most days to tell people to stay away. But I’ll tell you that skinning up early Sunday morning in persistent 50-mph winds was an adventure…especially on the way down.
Admittedly, as much as we take some pride in leading the state in snow totals, it gets tiring after a while. The shoveling, the spinning tires, the hard to navigate roads, the people who don’t know what to do, all add to the stress. There will be some tension and tempers will become shorter. That too comes on the winds of an epic storm. It is part of roughing it during an extended storm in the Rocky Mountains. Add to that the fact that this is one of the busiest weeks of the ski season in terms of tourists and things can get testy.
And the snow will draw more tourists from the Front Range as people there want a story to tell their friends. They may end up bragging about face shots, but I’ve helped pull or push their sedans out of regular parking spaces at the hotel. Adventure! That is part of living in a tourist town — something I really like since it brings an uptick in energy and (some) diversity with new faces. Some bring attitude but for the most part, the ones that appreciate this place are welcome here and smile as they get unstuck. They, like the locals, just need to take a breath and slow down in times like these.
So seriously – chill. Slow down. Be safe. Embrace one of the biggest two-week storms this place has seen in years. Understand that everyone is doing the best they can. That includes finding some time to get out and play in the 100 inches and not just shovel it. That’s part of living here in times like these. You can look at it either as an adventure or a pain in the ass. It is actually both, but if you think it is more a pain than an adventure, you might consider the beach.
Those that have been here awhile understand that when things are an adventure or a pain in the butt, it all works better when the community pulls together. So now is a time to watch out for one another. Heed the advice of the old-timers. Carry a tow strap. Be honest and upfront with one another. And don’t forget to play in the snow. Shoveling the berm at the end of my driveway Tuesday morning in the dark before sunrise, there was a light down the street. It smoothly came by me and was a headlamp attached to a woman on skinny skis getting in some fun in the falling snow before doing what I was doing. She was obviously smarter than me.
Again…this is a good one. It comes with beauty, with danger and with joy. Pace yourself. Enjoy yourself. Be where you are. My dad said the traffic jam to the beach in Florida was pretty heinous too so it’s not just happening here. These storm events don’t come along every year and you are in a ski town after all. Be kind. Be patient. Embrace the adventure!