Temperatures in Steamboat Springs reached as low as minus 40 degrees this morning. It had warmed slightly at Wells Fargo bank in downtown Steamboat by mid-morning.

Photo by John F. Russell

Temperatures in Steamboat Springs reached as low as minus 40 degrees this morning. It had warmed slightly at Wells Fargo bank in downtown Steamboat by mid-morning.

Frigid weather rattles Steamboat



Commuter Chris Hebrank only had to wait a few minutes for his bus to arrive Wednesday morning. Extremely cold weather in the area closed local schools and made waiting for buses uncomfortable at best.


Courtesy of Marybeth Davies

The temperature dipped to minus 40 degrees this morning in some parts of Routt County, including Saddle Mountain.

— The Steamboat Springs School District, Christian Heritage School and Lowell Whiteman Primary School canceled school today because temperatures this morning dipped to minus 40 degrees. The Hayden and South Routt school districts are open today, as is The Lowell Whiteman School.

Steamboat Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said it's a matter of safety for children.

"I don't want kids standing out at the bus stop," she said. "It's about the kids being safe."

Cunningham said she got a call from the a district transportation employee at 4 a.m. today that the temperature at the district's bus barn had dipped to minus 40 degrees and was continuing to decrease.

She said diesel fuel can gel when temperatures reach that threshold.

According to Steamboat Pilot & Today archives, the district last canceled classes Feb. 6 and 7, 1989. Students missed two days of school because of a temperature of 42 degrees below zero and a heating gas shortage.

Cunningham said she plans to recommend changing district policy so that schools close when the temperature dips to minus 30 degrees.

South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said everything was running smoothly this morning, and there were no problems with the district's buses or kids getting to school on time. The district did, however, cancel its planned ski day at the Steamboat Ski Area. A little more than 100 students in grades three through 12 had planned to attend.

Today's school closure in Steamboat left some families scrambling for day care options.

Heather Martyn of the Boys and Girls Club of Steamboat said the facility typically closes whenever schools are closed. The same is the case today. She said it's a staffing issue.

Susan Petersen of the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department said they organized staffing this morning to offer a version of their School Days Off program, which provides child care at Soda Creek Elementary School on weekdays when there is no school. But Petersen said they received only one phone call this morning from a parent interested in the program, so the city ultimately decided not to offer School Days Off today.

"I would have loved to have offered something, but it just doesn't make sense. We haven't received a flood of phone calls," Petersen said.

The city's normal after school care also is canceled today, Petersen said. For more information, call 970-879-4300.

Cunningham said she wasn't sure whether there were other last-minute options for families.

District officials expect school to be in session again Thursday, with today's class schedule, according to an e-mail from Karen Campbell, office manager at Steamboat Springs High School. All previous activities are still planned, including the Snowcoming Dance at 8 p.m. There already is no school for students Friday because it is a planned staff professional development day. Students who were chosen to build Winter Carnival sculptures must build them Friday, according to the e-mail.

Colorado Mountain College remained open today, although some classes were cancelled as a result of professors not being able to make it to campus.

City of Steamboat Springs offices and departments are open and operating as scheduled today, although Kim White says some city employees may be busy arranging child care.

Kim Symalla of Steamboat Springs Transit said all buses were running this morning, but some were falling behind.

At 8 a.m. one bus was about 18 minutes behind schedule, but passengers waiting at bus stops were not being left in cold any longer than necessary. When a bus is that far behind, the next bus has essentially caught it, Symalla said. At that point, the late bus defers to the one behind it and returns immediately to either the Gondola Transit Center or Stock Bridge Transit Center to get back on schedule.

"We're working as hard as we can to keep the buses running on schedule," Symalla said.

Ski area news

The Steamboat Ski Area reported a 5 a.m. mid-mountain temperature of minus 21 degrees. As of noon, the temperature at Thunderhead was minus 2 — minus 16 with wind chill.

The gondola opened as scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Several lifts were on weather holds this morning. As of 1 p.m., all lifts were open except Pony Express. Like most mechanical things, Lane said ski lifts can take a while to warm up and operate correctly in the extreme cold.

He also reminded skiers and riders to be particularly wary of frostbite today. Anyone venturing out into the elements should make to sure to cover all exposed areas of skin. Skiers and riders should take frequent breaks and watch one another closely for signs of frostbite, Lane said.

Today's high temperature in Steamboat is expected to reach 1 degree. Tonight's low will dip to minus 23 degrees. A thaw should begin Thursday, when the daytime high could get all the way up to 18 degrees.

Elk River rancher feeds extra hay to cattle

Clark Rancher Doug Carlson reported the thermometer reached 38 degrees below zero at his home on Routt County Road 62 this morning. The coldest morning he can recall in 27 years of ranching the Stranahan property was about 55 degrees below zero in 1985.

Carlson had just come into the ranch house from feeding 300 head of cattle. Luckily, his tractor started up first thing. He spread enough hay to give each animal an estimated 5 to 10 pounds of extra feed.

“They’re in good shape, but I feed extra to keep their energy up on the cold weather,” Carlson said.

Contract mail carrier shrugs off sub-zero temps

Contract mail carrier Dwight Willman was standing bareheaded while sorting mail into a neighborhood cluster box at about 11 a.m. today when the temperature was still 19 degrees below zero.

“It’s my hands that bother me the most,” Willman said.

The mail truck from Denver was a little late arriving in Steamboat, Willman said, but otherwise, mail delivery was proceeding normally during the coldest morning Steamboat has seen in years.

He delivers mail in downtown Steamboat and in neighborhoods on the city near the east side.

“Fairview is the coldest place on my route,“ Willman said. “I don’t know what it is. The wind just seems to come through there.”

Movie theater opens early

Citing the low temperatures and closed schools, Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas Manager Mark Green said the theater would open at 1:30 p.m. today with its weekend show schedule. The first showing of "True Grit" is at 2:10 p.m., "The Green Hornet" is at 2:20 p.m., "The Rite" shows at 2:30 p.m., "No Strings Attached" is at 2:30 p.m. and "The Mechanic" is at 2:40 p.m. The theater can be reached at 970-870-8222.


Krista Monger 6 years, 2 months ago

I think I can remember one day in the 1980's when there was a main gas line leak in town or at the mountain, and the school was "asked" to close to conserve gas for city residents. I was young, so I don't remember exactly. Anyone???


Ben Beall 6 years, 2 months ago

1988 -40deg - I was in kindergarden. That was weather related. Then school closed in Feb 1994, when the Good News Building blew up and there were gas leak questions, so the schools closed - not directly weather related


John Rogers 6 years, 2 months ago

-40 in Milner at 7:10.and the Hayden bus pulled up .....we were like dang ..didnt make the kidos stand outside .i mean come on it's -40......but off to school they went ~~


Krista Monger 6 years, 2 months ago

"Cunningham said she plans to recommend changing district policy so that schools close when the temperature dips to minus 30 degrees."

Implenting a policy like this would require the school to pad the calendar with extra days to offset the potential closures. I don't want a longer calendar than we already have. What has changed to warrant a policy shift?


rhys jones 6 years, 2 months ago

I mentioned in a previous post that I am taking a southern sojourn this year, in Goodyear, Az. We are now getting that Arctic blast; high winds, and temps clear down in the 30's and 40's, even freezing at night. I feel your pain. ;)

We went to the outdoor hot tub at Walton Village one night, when it was 56 below. '87-'88, as I recall. The sky was clear, and the steam rising off the hot tub would crystallize and fall back on us as snow. It was pretty cool, as was the walk to and fro.

I think the cold snap required to kill the pine beetles has to be somewhat protracted, 2-3 weeks, like used to be a regular thing, back in the '80's. But lets hope, eh?


papafu 6 years, 2 months ago

Maybe if the parents had gotten off of their cell phones and made sure the kids were dressed properly they could have had school.


freerider 6 years, 2 months ago

This is Obama's fault , no wait it's Bush's fault Let's blame global warming and we need to tax the crap out of somebody Since the oil company's have all the money let's tax them

For the record I remember -65 New Years Eve 1973 maybe more but my thermometer was bottomed out

Maybell has the official low but's that's not even close at - 45

Death to the beetle's


John St Pierre 6 years, 2 months ago

Guess I'm confused.... whats a school bus got to do with school being able to open??? The heat is on... the staff has cars.... The school districts primary responsibility is to have the buildings open and be ready to provide an educational program... its the parents responsibility to get their children to that building to learn... wether they get there at 8-9- or 10...... back when education was a priority..mom made us go no matter what or how long it took to get there... education was "THE" most important thing in our young lives..... wonder how many of the kids out of school today ...right now,,,are skiing, boarding, etc.... at the moment.......

If the bus doesnt show... it's mom's / dad's or (here's a novel concept) the students responsibility is to get there........


weststmbtres 6 years, 2 months ago

Two PG-13 movies and two R rated movies. Great stuff for the elementary school kids to see while they are off from school today. ;o)


bhad 6 years, 2 months ago

Who gives a S#%! let the kids have a day off it's not going to kill anyone.


jwfetejr 6 years, 2 months ago

im with bhad let 'em have some fun kids and teachers alike as to all the comments @ the 60s and 70s i am amazed that you people are still alive for one and totally in awe that you remember anything considering i doubt you were ranching back then oh by the way brakes freeze @ -30 as well as so many minds tough here


exduffer 6 years, 2 months ago

Good thing the kids are at home and hopefully not online reading all these polite posts.


Zoomie 6 years, 2 months ago

A couple of internet site's reported -54 this morning. My SUV's thermometer bottoms out at -39, and that's where it was at most of the way down the valley this morning.


hereandthere 6 years, 2 months ago

Have to agree with bhad. In addition, as another that went thru school in the 60's, I want to call BS on all this "school was a priority" nonsense. There is nothing new under the sun.


Brian Kotowski 6 years, 2 months ago


I believe the issue is that the Steamboat School District doesn't have heated indoor garaging for their fleet (unlike Hayden). Even with block heaters, fuel sitting in the lines at these temps is quite likely to have gelled, and the motors can't be relied upon to start.


Fred Duckels 6 years, 2 months ago

Reminiscent of big fish stories. I question the memories of some.


Scott Stanford 6 years, 2 months ago

Maybe this related story helps clear some of the memories. It certainly is a rare event for school to close in Steamboat Springs:

Scott Stanford General Manager 970-871-4202 sstanford@SteamboatToday.com


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