Crested Butte snow and ice plan ready for council okay
Written by Mark Reaman   
Wednesday, 23 October 2013
Snow banks, snow storage, snow cam…

You know winter is coming when the Crested Butte Town Council starts talking snow banks and the winter snow and ice plan. And that discussion started at the October 21 council meeting. Public Works director Rodney Due led the discussion by presenting the 2013-2014 plan.


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Under the proposal that was given a tentative thumbs up by the council, the plows will hit the streets when six inches of snow accumulates in town between now and November 30. Between December 1 and March 31, the town will call in its winter night crew and plowing will commence with three inches of accumulation.
Throughout the winter, the town will try to keep a snowpack on the streets that doesn’t exceed six inches. The Mountain Express bus route and the emergency route for the fire and EMS departments will be kept more clear with no more than three inches of snowpack. As for snow banks, the mounds of white will remain on Elk Avenue the week prior to Christmas through the week after New Year’s. Snow banks will also be allowed when the town is gathering snow for special events such as the Alley Loop or Big Air on Elk.
When it comes to storing snow, Due knows his phone will start ringing after the first big snowfall. “What we try to do is divide the snow storage areas throughout town,” he explained to the council.
“We don’t want to impact any one particular area when pushing and storing the snow late at night and in the early mornings. It’s not a quiet situation and I get a lot of phone calls when we start.”
Due said the last two years have been relatively lean snow years. “We tried last year, and were able for the most part, to try to keep the streets down to [asphalt],” he said. “On big snow years, that is impossible. Then, our priority is to manage the bus route and emergency routes.
“During a big snow event, we’ve found that it is sometimes hard to keep the streets cleared,” Due continued. “If a big snow starts at, say, 4 a.m., the place we started in town can look like it hasn’t been touched by 8 a.m. And then timing becomes an issue. Big plows and cars don’t mix well and we like to have the machines off the street early when residents begin driving.”
Chief Marshal Tom Martin said his department does what it can to assist Due and his crew, and that includes calling in the tow truck. “We have to keep those rights-of-way open,” he said. “We will start the season giving warnings to illegally parked cars and once we start handing out the yellow tickets, the problem eases quite a bit.”
Martin said in a normal snow year, the town would tow about 60 cars a winter. In big snow years, the number is closer to 100. He said the tow charge would be $160 this season.
“We are reluctant to tow but it’s an absolute necessity when it’s snowing,” Martin said. “We try to educate all the property managers in town so they can educate their clients. Believe me, we don’t like to deal with people who have had their cars towed.”
“You need to remember that Crested Butte is unique,” added Due. “It’s not like Mt. Crested Butte, which doesn’t allow parking on its streets. It puts us in a tough spot.”
Due said his crews rely on the marshals as well as a town snow cam located out of the wind to make the call when plowing needs to begin. That snow cam can be viewed on the Crested Butte town website.
Parks and Recreation Department director, Jake Jones, said his crew tries to keep the town sidewalks as clear as possible in the winter. “If there’s a dusting, we get after it,” he said. “Our goal is to be as close to concrete as possible for pedestrians and bikes.”
Jones said his crew also tries to be fair with the town-supplied cutouts in the snow banks in front of town businesses.
Councilperson Glenn Michel asked that Due integrate this winter plan with an upcoming transportation and parking study the council has budgeted for in 2014. “Snow management is integral to traffic and parking. It’s not just a summer study that we want done,” he said.
The council appeared to agree with Due’s snow proposal and set the document for public review at the next council meeting, when they will be asked to officially approve the proposal.