Snow helps ski area, hurts drivers

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The 5 inches of snow that fell in Steamboat Springs during the weekend provided much-needed cover for the Steamboat Ski Area but led to numerous traffic accidents throughout Routt County.

The storm, which hit Colorado's southern mountains the hardest, moved into the area Friday evening and dumped several inches of heavy, wet snow. A second round of snow showers continued Saturday evening, leaving a total of 5 inches at the ski area.

The snowfall undoubtedly provided a boost to the ski area as it prepares to open Wednesday for the annual Scholarship Day, a benefit for Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. Lift tickets for Wednesday are $15. Ski area officials are expected to announce today how much terrain will be open to skiers and riders when the mountain lift lines officially open.

After reporting a mid-mountain base of 8 inches late last week, the ski area's Web site indicated the base had almost doubled in depth during the weekend to 15 inches. In addition to the natural snow that fell this weekend, colder weather has allowed for widespread snowmaking.

Jim Daniels, a meteorologist in the National Weather Service's Grand Junction forecast office, said Routt County could see snow showers throughout the week, but no significant accumulation is expected. The next opportunity for measurable snowfall could come this weekend, Daniels said. Meteorologists are tracking a large Pacific system that should bring moisture and cold air to the area.

This weekend's storm dumped more than a foot of snow in areas of southern Colorado but left smaller amounts at ski areas along the Interstate 70 corridor. It also created traffic problems statewide, including numerous car accidents across Routt County.

Icy and snowy roads kept county dispatchers and law enforcement personnel busy throughout the afternoon and evening Saturday.

A car rolled over on Routt County Road 14 on Saturday afternoon because of slick roads, Routt County Sheriff's Office Deputy Mike Murphy said. The driver wasn't injured.

A Steamboat Springs Transit bus slid into a light pole on Lincoln Avenue near Fifth Street after hitting an icy patch in the road, Steamboat Springs Police Officer John McCartin said. There was no significant damage to the bus or the light pole, and none of the passengers riding the bus were injured, he said.

A car traveling east on Lincoln Avenue between Fifth and Sixth streets slammed into the back of a vehicle when the driver was unable to stop on the icy road, McCartin said. The driver was given a ticket for following too closely.

Two accidents resulted in driver arrests, including one in which the driver of a car that veered off the road was determined to be drunk. The second arrest was made after the driver of a vehicle that went off Colorado Highway 131 was found to be driving with a revoked license.

In total, more than a dozen accidents were reported Saturday afternoon and evening. All were because of hazardous driving conditions, McCartin and Murphy said.

"It was just people driving too fast for the conditions," McCartin said. "People need to slow down and leave more room between vehicles."

Statewide, a section of Interstate 25 was closed north of Denver as authorities dealt with several accidents, and the Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. 287 because of icy roads and poor driving conditions.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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