Driving home tonight seemed uneventful. It had been a clear but windy day on the plains.
But as we drove up Boulder Canyon, the snow started to fall. Gently at first, and then swirling around violently as we neared Nederland. Where did the snow come from?
The people who started the Eldora Ski Resort way back in 1962 must have known something about winter weather and snow storms. Eldora is the recipient of two types of storms. Up slope storms that bring snow from the east up the slope of the Front Range mountains and blow over storms from the west.
Blow over can bring a lot of snow to Eldora, the Indian Peaks, and even the town of Nederland. These storms are more typical in the winter with winds out of the northwest, and bring snow to places like Winter Park and Steamboat. But the winds can be so strong, that the snow blows over the top of the crest leaving lots of snow on the eastern side at the higher elevations.
Though people frequently get excited to ski Eldora during times it snows in Boulder and Denver, Eldora can get more snow from “blow over” than up slope at times.
During our first winter here, I worked for Eldora. In mid-November, we were working hard to get the resort ready to open. As the retail manager, I worked late, not leaving until 9 p.m. When I went out to the parking lot, almost a foot of new snow had fallen.
Being a newbie to the area, I thought I would be fine driving down the access road with my all wheel drive, Subaru Forester. But what I didn’t factor in was how slippery the road would be with all-season tires on. I hadn’t thought to purchase snow tires.
As I headed past Lake Eldora, the wind whipped the snow across the road. Small drifts of a foot were forming in the middle of the road. I could barely see ten feet in front of me.
As I headed down the road, my car started to fishtail as I navigated the curves. Suddenly, the drop off from the side of the road down to the town of Eldora looked a lot more perilous. I gripped the steering wheel so hard, my hands hurt. I prayed I would somehow get down that road.
Finally, I reached the intersection with the road to the town of Eldora. The snowflakes looked even bigger — like potato chips floating down from the sky. But at least the road was flat now — no steep embankments to slide down. The streets of Nederland were dark and empty — everyone seemed to have retreated to the safety of their home.
When I reached our house, though the snow still fell, it wasn’t at the fast and furious clip it had been. Rather than the several inches that had coated the access road, there was just a couple of inches at our house. I heard later that Boulder had no snow at all.
Such is the story of the blow over storm.
I thought my night had been treacherous, but the next day I found out someone else had an even a worse time than me. One of the retail employees, Sarah, had a front-wheel drive car with no snow tires. When she reached Nederland, the police had closed Boulder Canyon because of accidents in The Narrows. Being new to town, and not knowing anyone, she ended up getting a room at the Boulder Lodge and spending the night. She didn’t even have a change of clothes or a toothbrush.
I thought that might be the end of her working for me. But she’d learned her lesson and instead bought snow tires for her car the next day as well as a set of chains. She never missed a day of work the whole season.