Steamboat Springs Old Man Winter pushed autumn aside - at least temporarily - Saturday, giving eager skiers and riders a glimpse of what they hope is more snow to come.
But while the early snowstorm likely will have little actual impact on the upcoming ski season - the Steamboat Ski Area officially opens in 68 days - it created plenty of problems for motorists and lots of work for law enforcement agencies.
At least a dozen vehicles slid off U.S. Highway 40 on Rabbit Ears Pass on Saturday, Routt County Sheriff's Office Dep. Tom Munden said. Although none of the accidents were thought to be serious, they kept Colorado State Patrol troopers and local towing companies busy throughout the afternoon.
Most of the cars slid off the road because they were being driven too fast for the conditions or because their drivers lost control while trying to avoid other vehicles, Munden said.
"It was snowing pretty good up there for a while," he said. "People are driving too fast going up and too fast coming down."
Troopers with the Colorado State Patrol were unavailable for comment Saturday.
The effect of the wintry weather was far less in Steamboat Springs city limits, where police officers said they responded to only a few accidents throughout the day.
"We haven't had any major stuff yet," Officer Gerard Geis said Saturday afternoon.
The number of accidents and stranded vehicles reported on Rabbit Ears Pass was pretty typical for a first snowstorm, Munden said.
"Usually, this is what we see for the first snow," he said. "We're probably going to stay pretty busy (Saturday) with cars off the road."
About 4 inches of snow were reported on the west summit of Rabbit Ears Pass. Six inches were reported in Hahn's Peak Village and 8 inches in Columbine in North Routt County. About three inches fell in Clark, Clark Store employee Marsy Hancock said. That snow had melted by late Saturday afternoon. Hancock said a couple of campers who were in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area reported a couple feet of snow falling overnight Friday into Saturday.
The weather put a damper on a couple of local events planned for Saturday.
The 19th annual Rubber Ducky Race was cancelled early Saturday morning after event organizers decided the Yampa River was flowing too fast and too deep to allow the Boy Scouts and volunteer Kiwanis members to get in the water.
The Rubber Ducky Race is a fundraiser that benefits the Yampa Valley Medical Center Auxiliary. For the event, thousands of numbered, plastic rubber duckies are dumped into the Yampa River, and prizes are given to the first 100 or so duckies that cross the finish line. Boy Scouts and Kiwanis members usually stand in the water or along the banks to help push the duckies down the river.
A fundraiser bake sale for the Steamboat Springs High School softball team also was cancelled Saturday because of the weather.
The snow came about a month earlier this year than it did last year, when the first white flakes weren't seen until October.
National Weather Service meteorologist Chris Cuoco said the system that brought snow and ice to the region Saturday was the remnant of a larger system that moved through the area Friday.
"The cold is here to stay, but the snow isn't," Cuoco said.
The National Weather Service issued a freeze warning Saturday night for much of Northwest Colorado, including Steamboat. The warning forecast overnight temperatures in the lower 20s. The cold conditions would kill crops and other sensitive vegetation, the warning stated.
Today's high temperature is forecast to be 54 degrees with tonight's low dipping to 26. Temperatures are expected to increase as the week begins, with a high of 68 forecast for Tuesday.
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