Another storm on radar
December 28, 2006
Steamboat Springs — Just when things are starting to return to normal, another storm could bring the Front Range back to its knees.
Steamboat Springs also is expected to receive snow from the storm heading into the state today. And while another winter storm could bring powder conditions to the Steamboat Ski Area, it also could cause a repeat of the transportation troubles that plagued Denver and Northwest Colorado last week.
Forecasters still were trying to gauge Wednesday afternoon what track the storm would take – and what its impact would be in Steamboat during the height of this city’s winter tourism season.
“Right now we’re looking at another 2 1/2 feet (of snow) in the foothills of Boulder,” said Joe Ramey, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction. “It looks like a mess for them.”
Depending on where and when the storm hits, there is good potential for significant snowfall in Steamboat, Ramey said. Steamboat remains under a winter storm watch until the track of the storm becomes clear, he said.
He predicted it would start snowing tonight and continue into Friday night. Friday night is when Steamboat could see snowfall at a rate of an inch an hour, Ramey said.
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Yampa Valley Regional Airport officials certainly are keeping a close eye on the weather. About 1,200 passengers arrived at the Hayden airport Wednesday. The additional flights and plane seats available this winter means YVRA is experiencing record arrivals and departures.
That situation was complicated by last week’s storm, which forced the cancellation of many United Express regional jet service flights to and from Denver International Airport. Some United Airlines passengers have been in Steamboat for days without their luggage.
“It’s been pretty brutal for those guys,” YVRA terminal manager Ann Copeland said. “We’re still getting caught up on luggage.”
Some relief from Mother Nature would be nice, she added.
“We definitely don’t need another storm,” Copeland said. “Keep it in Steamboat and away from Denver and Hayden.
Between 30 percent and 35 percent of the passengers scheduled to arrive at YVRA during last week’s storm were affected by canceled and delayed flights.
The effect was felt at the Steamboat Ski Area.
“It was enough to be noticeable on our paid skier day count,” said Andy Wirth, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. vice president of sales and marketing.
Most did not cancel their ski vacations, but delays caused many to shorten their stays by one, two or three days, Wirth said.
Ski areas along Interstate 70 were impacted more by the storm because they rely more heavily on traffic from the Front Range, he said.
Wirth said ski area officials are closely monitoring the coming storm.
“We’re acutely aware of the impacts of last week’s storm,” Wirth said. “We’re in discussions with our airline operations people. The best we can do is be prepared for it and we’re thinking that there will be a lot of snow out of this.”
The next three days will be the busiest of the year in terms of the number of skiers at the ski area. To accommodate the crowds, the ski area is opening many of its lifts at 8 a.m.
Other businesses also are affected by storms that shut down transportation. Local grocery stores did not receive their usual shipments last week, and restaurants must keep their kitchens stocked for the high season.
U.S. Foodservice territory manager Bryce Hagemeier’s company supplies food to about 100 restaurants in Routt County.
Last week’s Front Range blizzard kept supply trucks from making deliveries to Steamboat from the Denver warehouse.
“After today, we’ll be caught up from last week,” Hagemeier said. “I’ve been through a few blizzards, but this was the worst.”
None of his customers ran out of food because they were well stocked for the busiest week of the year, he said. He has encouraged restaurants to prepare for the next storm by stocking up now.
Steamboat lodging properties will be at the brink of 100 percent occupancy this weekend, provided travel isn’t affected by the pending storm.
The Rabbit Ears Motel in downtown Steamboat reported being completely booked until Jan. 1.