Crested Butte 2022-23 snow plan approved by council

Losing more storage, staying ahead of the snowpack and alley issues

[  By Mark Reaman  ]

Believe it or not, real winter is not far away in Crested Butte and the town council has officially approved the 2022-2023 Snow and Ice Control Operations Plan. The plan comes with a few changes while carrying over many of the same procedures from the last several years including keeping picturesque designer snowbanks on Elk Avenue during the holidays starting the week before Christmas and going through the week after New Year’s.

Crested Butte Public Works director Shea Earley presented the plan to the town council and pointed out that the town lost the snow storage area at the Queen of All Saints Church on Sopris Avenue. There will be construction work happening in the space this winter. Because of that, the 400 block of Fifth Street and the 400 block of Sopris will be plowed to either side of the street. Similarly, the snow storage lot in the 200 block of Teocalli Avenue was lost so the 100 block of Teocalli will be plowed to either side of the street. That operational change was implemented last year, and Earley said it appeared to work.

“The biggest change this season will be that all snow removal vehicles will need to be registered with the town,” Earley told the council. “It’s been in the plan before but this year it will be enforced. The struggle isn’t with contractors who do snow removal every year but new property managers who might be renting equipment and there is no name or identification on them.”

In a memo to the council, he said that registration process would help public works and the marshals contact operators and ensure they are following the requirements for operating on public rights of way, including alleys.

Other highlights of the plan include commencing snow plowing on the streets when there is three inches of accumulation and snow blowing the sidewalks when there is one inch of snow on the ground. The priority is to keep the bus route and emergency routes clear of snow and ice accumulation.

While keeping snowbanks on Elk during the holiday weeks, the rest of the season the snow crews will remove snow from Elk Avenue “between snow events to promote pedestrian safety, pedestrian and vehicular visibility and provide easy access to businesses.”

As usual, private property owners and property management companies are responsible for the removal of snow and ice build-up from roofs adjacent to public areas, public streets and rights of way maintained by the town that present a possible hazard to the public from sliding.

The town will again lease snow storage spots for private contractors in the gravel pit. Councilmember Jason MacMillan asked about the impact of garbage that ends up in the snow piles and the impact to the Town Ranch wetlands. “We need to protect the wetlands in that area, but the wetlands are doing what they’re supposed to do and cleaning the water,” said Earley. “There is no other place up here to put that level of snow storage. It’s an inevitable part of living at 9,000 feet. Snow is removed from local construction sites and those are dirty places.”

Responding to a follow-up question from councilmember Beth Goldstone, Earley said that the private contractors are required to clean-up trash from their snow storage sites and if they don’t, they do not get their initial deposits back and won’t be issued a permit the following year.

Councilmember Gabi Prochaska asked that specific language be included in the plan to make clear that contractors should not store snow in front of the access to houses located in the alleys. “I think we will continue to see more people living in the alleys in ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) and since one alley can have several different contractors moving snow around, it should be clear they shouldn’t block someone’s access to their home,” she said. “I’m concerned the town doesn’t have something that forces private snow hauler/removers to be coordinating.”

Earley said that type of issue is brought up clearly at the annual “Snow Summit” with the contractors. “Alleys definitely present challenges and each alley presents unique challenges,” said Earley. “We are trying to be more proactive with regulatory permitting.”

Goldstone asked why the town begins plowing with three inches of accumulation instead of five or six. Earley said it helps with the eventual removal of the snowpack from the streets. “We prefer to plow at three inches and keep the roads as clear as possible,” he said.

Councilmember Anna Fenerty noted that last year a portion of Red Lady Avenue under The Bench had been closed and used for snow storage. She asked if other town streets presented similar opportunities. “When that happened, traffic was reduced tremendously,” she said of the overall road. Earley said he would look at other possibilities.

While acknowledging that snow management and removal is an energy intensive endeavor that impacts climate mitigation measures, Earley pointed out that Crested Bute purchased a hybrid loader this year and is keeping an eye on purchasing electric dump trucks as the technology evolves.

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