City of Steamboat hauled nearly 4,000 truckloads of snow this winter |

City of Steamboat hauled nearly 4,000 truckloads of snow this winter

A city worker, Jim Noppe, uses a groomer to push snow, removed from city streets, into a pile near a city snow storage site off of 13th Street in December. Since then, the pile has grown to two stories tall. (Photo by John F. Russell)
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — More than 200 inches of snow fell on Steamboat Springs this year, according to the National Weather Service. All that snow has to go somewhere, and to keep it from piling along Lincoln Avenue and public parking areas, Steamboat Springs Public Works employees haul the snow away and pile it up outside of the city’s public works shop.

From November 2018 to March, the city streets department has hauled a total of 70,722 cubic yards of snow, the equivalent of 3,929 dump truckloads. They’ve spent 1,733 hours picking up and hauling snow, and 5,396 hours plowing the streets this winter.

Though it’s a lot of snow, Streets Supervisor Tom Martindale explained this has been a normal year for the department.

“Really, it’s been about average,” he said. “It seems like a lot because we haven’t had an average winter in a couple years, but really, it’s been about an average winter, maybe a little better. The numbers say we’re just a little above average in snowpack.”

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, snowpack in the Yampa Valley is at about 117 percent of its long-term average for April 1 and 145 percent of what it was this time last year.

As spring blooms, the city’s equipment operators will be behind the wheels of street sweepers instead of snowplows to pick up the scoria they put down to increase traction in winter weather.

Scoria is a porous, volcanic rock that breaks down easily. Much of the scoria used in the city is mined near McCoy in South Routt. The gravel-sized pieces can sit atop the snow, whereas sand sinks down, making scoria a more appealing material to help keep motorists on the road.

Sweeping up this rock prevents air and water pollution. In the 1980s, Routt County and the Steamboat Springs area didn’t meet the Environmental Protection Agency’s air quality standards, due to pollution from street sanding and wood smoke from stoves used to heat homes, according to Routt County Environmental Health.

That’s no longer the case, and street sweeping plays a role in keeping local air clean. When scoria breaks up, smaller particles can enter the atmosphere. Even if it doesn’t break up, it can end up being carried into the Yampa River with the spring runoff.

“If we get it swept up before it makes it into the drainages, then it doesn’t make it into the river. That’s the biggest thing,” Martindale said. “If we get it swept up before cars drive over it a lot, it doesn’t end up in the air.”

The city asks residents to help in the effort to pick up the scoria by sweeping or raking it into the street in long, thin rows. Street sweepers cannot pick up yard waste such as sticks and branches.

“That works better if you put it in long, skinny wind-rows,” Martindale said. “Sometimes, they’ll put it in a wheelbarrow and go out and just dump it in the street, and a street sweeper can’t get over the top of a big pile.”

It sometimes takes a couple of passes to sweep up all the material, he added, so don’t fret if there’s still scoria on the road after a sweeper passes.

Martindale said street sweepers will be out from 6:30 a.m. to about 2 p.m. Monday through Friday in April, unless it’s raining or snowing. Sweepers don’t like water, he joked.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.

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