Steamboat Springs Skiers and riders have been waiting all winter for a week like this. It's just too bad many of them weren't able to enjoy all the fresh snow at the Steamboat Ski Area on Friday.
High winds forced the closure of many of the ski area's upper-mountain chairlifts. The weather also played havoc with transportation across the state, as highways and interstates were shut down for much of the day because of winds, snow and avalanche danger.
The wind topped out at 107 mph atop the ski area Friday, spokeswoman Heidi Thomsen said. And despite plenty of fresh powder, the blowing snow and poor visibility made it dangerous for skiers and riders.
"Storm Peak Express lift and Morningside lift did not ever open to the public because it was determined too windy to open," Thomsen said. "The gondola closed at about 9:30 a.m., and then Sunshine Express, Pony Express, Sun-down Express, Four Points, Bar UE and Thunderhead Express followed."
"There was great powder up there, but the safety of the guests here at Steamboat is our ultimate concern and priority."
The lower half of the ski mountain remained open, Thomsen said.
As Steamboat ramps up for the busy Presidents Day weekend, some incoming travelers may have had to postpone their trip by a day.
The Colorado Department of Transportation closed U.S. Highway 40 over Rabbit Ears and Berthoud passes early Friday because of hazardous conditions. Loveland Pass also remained closed Friday, and Interstate 70 was shut down from Floyd Hill outside of Denver all the way to Vail.
"Everything started closing between 10 and 11:30 a.m., one after another," said Stacy Stegman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "The big thing on Friday was the wind and the visibility. Once the wind died down, we were able to get the roads clear."
U.S. 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass and most sections of I-70 had re-opened by Friday afternoon
Flight inbound and outbound of Yampa Valley Reg-ional Airport experienced some delays and cancellations Friday, but airport officials said they weren't caused by local weather conditions.
"Our weather isn't affecting our flights as much as where they are originating from," said Ann Copeland, terminal and operations manager for the airport. "We do have winds, but luckily we have dry runways, so that usually doesn't cause us too many problems."
One flight out of Salt Lake City was canceled because of a mechanical problem, and others were canceled or delayed because of high winds in Denver, Copeland said.
"American Airlines was running late, but again, that was out of Dallas," Copeland said. "My understanding is the weather is going to be good for the next two days."
Jim Daniels, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, said the high winds and snow should end today.
"The biggest impact with this storm has been the very strong winds associated with it," Daniels said. "We were looking at winds in the order of 15 to 25 mph with gusts as high as 50 mph."
This particular storm came from the northwest.
"On a larger scale, we did have a shift in the weather patterns, and that's allowed the systems to come down from the northwest very strongly. We are expecting a change to less cold air going into the central part of the country next week," Daniels said. "We probably won't have much going on today and Sunday, and the next chance of snow will be coming Monday or Tuesday."
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