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Old 11-14-2007, 08:53 PM
8,317 posts, read 25,843,849 times
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An earlier thread was asking about winter driving in Colorado. I thought it might be fun to have a thread of people's worst Colorado winter driving expericences. I will start with a few of mine--I am not counting the "bumper car marathons" sitting in traffic jams on the I-70 "Sacrifice Zone," since that is as much a function of driver idiocy as it is bad road conditions. These were experiences pretty much engineered by Mother Nature:

1. Driving on Colo. Hwy. 133 over McClure Pass (between Redstone and Paonia) in a blinding snowstorm. I was driving a 4WD pickup and was driving in snow (on the highway) up to the front bumper in many places. This was before the highway was improved and it still had 11 miles of gravel road on the west side--which had nearly a foot of snow on it in places. I saw one other vehicle in 45 miles, another 4WD pickup being driven by an acquaintance of mine who lived in Paonia and worked at the Mid-Continent coal mine at Redstone--he was trying to get home from work! (I had a similar experience some years later, driving between Steamboat Springs and Craig on US 40 with snow up to the bumper again--this on a New Year's Day with me nursing a major league "hair-ache" from the celebration bringing in the New Year. But that is another story.)

2. Driving northbound over Red Mountain pass between Silverton and Ouray one March, just after a major snowstorm. The road was mostly dry, but snowslides were running everywhere. Just south of Bear Creek falls, a slide ran not 100 feet in front of us, covering the highway in 8' of snow, with some 40' tall or so spruce trees and a lot of rock mixed in. We had to wait for nearly 2 hours for a state snowplow to get there from Ouray (they had to clear other slides to get to us). While we were waiting, another fellow waiting with us who was from Montrose and I strung together about 50' of tow chains we had between us and starting jerking some of the trees out of the slide and winching them off to the side of the road. Needless to say, that was when I was younger, stronger, and braver. Finally, the state rotary snow plow got there and starting plowing out the slide, which took another two hours. In the meantime, we could hear more slides running behind us. That is a sound you won't forget.

3. An after-Thanksgiving marathon one year when what would normally be a 3 1/2 hour drive from Denver to Gunnison took 13 1/2 hours, including a leisurely 15 mph or less drive through a blinding blizzard in South Park, and a 4 1/2 hour wait at Garfield (on the eastern side of Monarch Pass) waiting for no less than 4 jacknifed and wrecked semis to be cleaned up about 5 miles up the road. It snowed almost 3 feet in that 4 1/2 hour wait. When the state snowplows are getting stuck trying to plow out the road ahead of you, you know the snow is deep. Oh yeah, that trip was topped off by having a flat tire 3 miles out of town at 1:30 in the morning with the temperature down around 15 below zero.

And that is just my "top 3 hits." I have probably 3 dozen more in my winter driving experience that would qualify as "high adventure."

Last edited by jazzlover; 11-14-2007 at 09:10 PM..
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:30 AM
Location: Durham, NC
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The driving experience wasn't so bad, but...

We flew back to Colorado from a Thanksgiving trip back east and came into a major snowstorm late at night. I couldn't beleive the plane landed as the runway was covered in snow, the wind was howling and the snow was really coming down. Alas, we made it to the gate safely, retreived our bags, and went to the curb to catch the bus to remote parking. This is where the adventure really began. Once we arrived at the parking lot, we realized we had no idea where our car (a ubiquitous Ford Tauras) was in the snow covered lot. Because there was easily 14" of snow already, the cars were covered and we couldn't make out the color of any of them, plus they all looked like bubbles. At least we could rule out the SUVs. We finally got off the bus where we thought we had parked, but we were wrong. Let me just say that dragging a large roller suitcase through deep snow does not work...it simply becomes a snowplow behind you, but doesn't move the "plowed" snow out of the way. After about 20 minutes of wandering around in the freezing cold wind and snow, the panic button finally triggered the horn and lights and we found the car. After that, it was just a slow and careful drive up I-25 back to Fort Collins that took almost 2 hours. Of course, upon making it to the house, I had to leave the car at the curb and shovel out the drive before pulling the car into the garage. Such is life in Colorado!
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Old 11-15-2007, 07:59 AM
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I'm not sure what is "the I-70 "Sacrifice Zone" but I'd say its that stretch of I-70 up near Eisenhower Tunnel. Is that true?

That stretch of road makes the nightly news many times during winter driving season and is what all my pals back east see when they watch their news, semi-trucks jack-knifed at the tunnel. From the news clips shown back there, my pals think everywhere in CO is like that. Half of them don't believe the eastern 1/3 of CO is flat grass prairie. One came out to ride the trains and did he ever get an education, to include just how vast distances are in the west.
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Old 11-15-2007, 08:47 AM
Location: Denver,Co
676 posts, read 2,542,430 times
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My worst experience was last year right around the second major storm we had gotten for the season. I was working downtown and was living down in Highlands Ranch.. I left work early since the snow was just dumping! I had the briliant idea to avoid the highway because I thought it would be a mess. Turns out that wasn't true. (They always plow highways first then move to side street) so it took me 3 hours to get from my office downtown to Park Meadows Mall on side streets which had about 1 foot of snow already. Many people would stop at a light or stop sign and got stuck, turning the streets into one gigantic, sloppy obsticle course. I had a friend working with me and he lived up in Evergreen and eventually he had to stay with me because the highway to his house closed. We got stuck for 2 days luckily my apartment complex had a parking garage so we didn't have to dig ourselves out.
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:44 AM
Location: Colorado
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Last Christmas without a doubt! Driving back from Santa Fe during the second blizzard in my VW Cabrio (and extremely high-maintenance father) in the car with me. A 6-hour drive that took 10 hours in single lane traffic at 40mph the whole way with my windshield wipers getting so clogged with wet snow that I couldn't see where I was going, having to pull off I-25 twice at Walsenberg and somewhere else to fill the car up and clear the wipers and then attempt to get back onto the highway without getting stuck, sliding off the road or hitting anyone. To my eternal amazement and gratitude we made it all the way home to Longmont without incident, only to drive straight into a snowdrift and get thoroughly stuck right outside my front door. The snow froze solid overnight and we spent several hours the next day hacking it free. That was all my Dad got to see of Colorado - some vacation!
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Old 11-15-2007, 09:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Mike from back east View Post
I'm not sure what is "the I-70 "Sacrifice Zone" but I'd say its that stretch of I-70 up near Eisenhower Tunnel. Is that true?
"I-70 Sacrifice Zone" = I-70 from Denver to Grand Junction. The term was coined by Ed Quillen, a columnist for the Denver Post. He called it that because it was his opinion that the corridor was so overdeveloped that it was beyond saving. In one column, he suggested that the developers, etc. should be allowed to do whatever they wanted there, so long as they promised to leave the rest of the state alone, thus the term "sacrifice zone." I think that the term fits the highway condtions and traffic that one finds on I-70 so frequently these days.
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Old 11-15-2007, 10:57 AM
Location: Up in a cedar tree.
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I enjoy reading these stories. It makes me want to make snow angels

(I really, really miss the snow days)
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:28 PM
Location: Wherabouts Unknown!
7,764 posts, read 16,871,455 times
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My scariest winter driving adventure actually took place enroute to Clorado on my first visit. We encounterd an ice storm on I-80 somewhere east of Cozad Nebraska. It got more and more slippery by the minute. I pulled on to the shoulder and slowed to a crawl, hoping and praying to make it to the next exit so we could sleep in a hotel instead of freezing our butts off in the car overnite and/or having a tractionless vehichle ram into us. We kept getting passed by truckers speeding by at 10 mph. I said to my buddy, this must be pretty serious if those mother big truckers are only going 10 mph, becasue they never slow down. After quite a bit of slipping and sliding we made it safely into Cozad where we spent the night in a heated hotel room instead of being stranded in a cold VW beetle along the highway. The next evening we pulled into Denver in a dense ice fog during a temperature inversion. Welcome to Colorado sayeth the weather gods!


Last edited by CosmicWizard; 11-15-2007 at 01:38 PM..
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Old 11-15-2007, 01:55 PM
Location: Las Flores, Orange County, CA
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December 21, 2006, headed to work at Schriever AFB from Monument. Got to the base around 6AM and it was extremely cold and windy but not snowing. Around 8:30 AM the base started early release for people who lived the farthest away (like Monument and Black Forest). (A few years ago this happened and some guys wanted to be heroes and not leave early. The base got locked down and they spent a couple of days on the base unable to leave.) I looked out the only window in the building and almost panicked. The snow was intense and the wind was blowing it horizontally. My windshield was completely ice and I decided to take the 25 home instead of the two lane back roads I normally take. Couldn't see a thing except a brown blob ahead of me - a UPS truck.

It was a lot worse than the picture below, I couldn't see anything.

http://www.hprcc.unl.edu/nebraska/capt_copf11212210640_ap[domain blocked due to spam]_snowstorm_copf112.jpg (broken link)

Normally takes 50 minutes to drive home but this time it took three hours. When I walked in the front door at 1130 I was shaking. It was this California wuss's first major snow experience. I hope I never have to go through that again. It was extremely scary. It was the first of two blizzards that closed DEN airport.

Here is the monster:

http://www.hprcc.unl.edu/nebraska/lbf-24hour-dec20-2006.gif (broken link)
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Old 11-15-2007, 03:11 PM
Location: Denver,Co
676 posts, read 2,542,430 times
Reputation: 156
Ugh that weather map makes me want to cry
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