Heavy snowfall this week is making skiers smile during the last days of the season, but is making travelers frown.
The storm prompted Colorado Department of Transportation officials to close Berthoud Pass Monday night. The pass was reopened early Tuesday morning after CDOT crews completed minor avalanche control and cleared the roadway, according to CDOT Spokesperson Bob Wilson.
"(Avalanche crews) brought down some snow but it wasn't as much as we were prepared for," Wilson said.
Road travelers endured blizzard conditions and icy roads in and around Grand County. At least three car accidents were called into dispatch on Monday.
The Weather Service issued a Winter Weather Advisory at 7 a.m. on Monday; Grand County was included in the advisory as the spring storm moved through the state.
A new storm was on track to move into the area Tuesday night, predicted to drop an additional 6 to 16 inches in the area by Thursday morning, according to Kyle Fredin, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service station for Denver and Boulder. The storm is expected to ease up by late Wednesday through early Thursday.
The snow accumulations from this storm may help to ease the tension of the drought in Colorado. "It's going to help," Fredin said. "We are still well below our normal snowpack. Hopefully we can keep this going into late April."
A week ago, the Upper Colorado River Basin was at about 75 percent of normal snowpack, according to Jim Kalina, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Boulder. The storm that took place Sunday and Monday bumped up the snowpack to 85 percent of normal and Tuesday and Wednesday's storm could increase the snowpack, Kalina said.
Snow removal overtime
Grand County Road and Bridge reported deploying all of their snow removal equipment to deal with the storm including 16 blades or graders, eight double axle plows, two single axle plows, and two front-end loaders.
Colorado Department of Transportation crews began working full snow shifts at midnight on Sunday and are expected to be working through the incoming storm. There were up to 75 plows working in the northern mountains, 30 along the I-70 mountain corridor, as well as up to 120 plows on the Front Range and eastern plains.
Out with a bang
Weather is expected to begin clearing up by the weekend with only a slight chance of snow for Saturday and Sunday, which may be welcome for the closing weekend of Winter Park Resort.
Winter Park Resort reported receiving 30 inches of snow from Saturday to Tuesday. There is normally a time during the spring when the resort begins to close certain terrain due to decreasing snowpack, but thanks to the added snow, the resort should be 100 percent open for their closing weekend, according to Steven Hurlbert, public relations and communication manager for Winter Park Resort.
"We haven't gotten a huge dump all year until now," Hurlbert said. And with more snow in the forecast, there will be "more powder days to come," Hurlbert said.
The resort is celebrating its closing with Springtopia this weekend, with live music and the traditional Spring Splash.
An avalanche warning has been issued by the Colorado Avalanche Information Center through 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 17. The avalanche danger for the Front Range zone was bumped up to high (level 4) on northwest through north to southeast aspects near and above treeline. Elsewhere, the danger is considerable (level 3).
The center reported natural and human triggered avalanches were likely on Tuesday as the new snow accumulations of more than a foot in places have formed fresh wind slabs and have put stress on older deep slab instabilities.
Rocky Mountain National Park reported receiving 22 new inches of snow at the Colorado River Trailhead, at 8,990 feet elevation, on the west side of the park.