• Here's how a Colorado town handles 20+ feet of snow without canceling school

    By: Katie Walls


    STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. - The City of Steamboat Springs, Colorado removes enough snow from streets and parking lots to fill one football field 35 feet deep. The street superintendent told Channel 2’s Katie Walls that snow season begins in November and ends in April.

    “We can get anywhere from 20 to 30 feet, depending upon where you are in the valley,” David Van Winkle said.

    That’s more than 80 times Atlanta’s average of 2.9 inches. The biggest challenge for Van Winkle, a 23-year veteran in the field of snow removal, is the sheer volume of snow and where to put it.

    “We have to haul a lot of snow back to storage areas because of parking. Trash day poses a real challenge,” he said.

    One thing that’s unique to Steamboat Springs is their use of a local volcanic rock called scoria, which gives drivers traction. As soon as snow begins, operators immediately begin spreading the tiny pieces of scoria. Once the snow is two inches deep, the city deploys motor graders that can plow a street up to 22 feet wide.

    Salt doesn’t melt snow well in Colorado because the temperatures are too cold, and sand doesn’t work well because of the volume of snow.

    “At any given time, we can have 20 to 30 thousand guests in town in one weekend, and they may or may not have snow tires,” Van Winkle said.

    He noted that his city has never canceled school for snowfall, only cold temperatures.

    The City of Steamboat Springs treats and plows 166 miles of roadway. The City of Atlanta is responsible for 379 miles. (Neither number includes interstates, which are the responsibility of the Department of Transportation). Atlanta uses a total of 77 plows, salt spreaders and brine trucks to treat and clear routes, plus two brine makers. That’s one piece of equipment for every five miles. Steamboat Springs, on the other hand, has one piece of equipment to treat every 14 miles.

    The obvious difference between the two locales is population. Atlanta is 10 to 20 times more populated than the busiest weekend in Steamboat Springs.

    “We have inclines, and we have a lot more snow, but we don’t have the volume of traffic,” Van Winkle said.

    The City of Atlanta only plows streets when the snowfall is at least two inches and emphasizes pre-treating and retreating roadways during winter weather events. Over the past several years, Atlanta has invested more than $4 million in equipment to prepare for and respond to winter weather, including snow and ice.

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