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Winter in Colorado: A complete guide

Weather

DENVER (KDVR) — As winter weather arrives in Colorado, it’s important to be prepared for what’s to come. From the forecast to road conditions to enjoying the fresh power, there are many important pieces to know.

We have put together this complete winter guide.


Forecast and radar

Whether you have plans to be outside or you just want to stay on top of the forecast, we have you covered.

We have several different radars on our website, which can be used no matter where you are.


Pinpoint Weather App

You can also download the Pinpoint Weather App for free.

Here’s what the app includes:

  • Interactive Radar: Zoom in to any location
  • Pinpoint Weather forecast: Independently certified as Colorado’s Most Accurate
  • Customized alert settings: Choose the severe weather alerts and locations that matter to you
  • Hour-by-Hour: Plan your day and see the hourly forecast for any location
  • Videos from the Pinpoint Weather team

Winter weather advisory vs. winter storm warning

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a winter weather advisory is issued for one or more of the following conditions:

  • Snow of 3-5 inches in 12 hours
  • Sleet of less than half an inch
  • Freezing rain with sleet and or snow
  • Blowing snow

Winter storm warning

NOAA says a winter storm warning is issued for the following conditions:

  • Heavy snow of at least 6 inches in 12 hours, or at least 8 inches in 24 hours, is expected
  • It can also be issued if sleet accumulation will be at least half an inch

Road Conditions

The Colorado Department of Transportation just launched a new version of its travel website in October.

You can download the app in the Apple Store or Google Play Store. See travel alerts here.

Here are the new features, according to CDOT:

Travel information with layers

Motorists can use the map as they would any Google map and click on the icons for more information. Icons are displayed on the map by checking or unchecking the boxes in the layers toolbar. Layers available and what data they provide are described here.


Trucker mode

The new Trucker Mode features resources specific to commercial motor vehicle operators, including the following layers defined here.


Travel alerts

Motorists can log-in in or sign up here for their own COtrip account to subscribe and manage their travel alerts. They can also save their favorite routes and cameras, and customize their travel preferences.


Chain and traction laws

Colorado’s traction law is in effect Sept. 1 through May 31 on Interstate 70 from Dotsero to Morrison.

Traction Law

According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, these are the rules:

During an active Traction Law, drivers must have one of these:

  • snow tires
  • tires with the mud/snow (M+S) designation
  • a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle

The legislation, which was put in place in August 2020, is aimed at drivers using state highways during winter months.

Specifically, it changed the required minimum tire tread for vehicles on snowy roads to 3/16 of an inch. Under the statute, minimum tire tread for dry roads is still 2/16 of an inch.

Motorists can also install chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock) to be in compliance with the law if your tires aren’t adequate.

Passenger Vehicle Chain Law

During severe winter storms, CDOT will implement a Passenger Vehicle Chain Law (also known as a Code 16). This is the final safety measure before the highway is closed.

When the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law is in effect, every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).

Fines

Drivers in violation of the law could be slapped with fines of more than $130. If a vehicle blocks the road because it lacks proper equipment, the motorist could face a fine of more than $650.

CDOT serves as a useful resource for staying safe and in compliance with the laws during winter driving.


What do you need in your vehicle?

AAA Colorado said it’s important to have an emergency kit in your vehicle during the winter:

  • Keep an emergency kit in your car with tire chains, abrasive material such as sand or kitty litter, small shovel, flashlight with extra batteries, ice scraper, rags or paper towels, flares or other warning devices, booster cables and a first aid kit.
  • Bring blankets, jackets, hats and gloves for you and your passengers
  • Pack waters and snacks, such as energy bars, and bring pet food if you’re traveling with four-legged friends.
  • Charge your mobile phone before you hit the road.

School closings and delays

If you’re looking for school closings and delays, you can find them here.


When do ski resorts open?

Arapahoe Basin, Loveland and Keystone usually battle to be the first in the state to open.

  • October (early as possible)
    • Keystone
    • Arapahoe Basin
    • Loveland Ski Area
  • Nov. 12
    • Breckenridge
    • Vail
  • Nov. 17
    • Winter Park Resort
  • Nov. 19
    • Eldora
  • Nov. 24
    • Beaver Creek
    • Crested Butte

See full list of projected opening dates, pass prices, and more here.


Backcountry skiing

Here’s the caution: the tips have to go beyond the gear.  It’s a learning experience and mindset.  Mentality is just as important.  Meteorologist Chris Tomer said preparation is key:

  • Get educated
  • Take avalanche classes
  • Start small
  • Learn from experienced backcountry skiers/snowboarders
  • Know your limits
  • Be conservative
  • Respect the dangers

Get a “COSAR” card ( Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue Card)

Why?

If a search and rescue team incurs expenses during a mission, they don’t bill it to the person they
helped. They (or the county sheriff under whom they operate) absorb that cost.
Buying a CORSAR Card helps ensure that a county sheriff and the SAR team are
financially prepared for the next mission — just as they were ready to help you because
previous people they helped had a card and the team’s expenses were reimbursed. This card allows the responders to apply for reimbursement of extraordinary expenses, but not the normal operating or routine mission expenses.

Be prepared:

It is important to leave a detailed itinerary with a responsible person at home. This person should be understand that it is their role to immediately report any known emergent circumstances, serious injuries or medical episodes, or an extended failure to communicate after the planned timeline of your trip.

  • Number of persons involved
  • Name, age, and gender of each person
  • Phone numbers for each person
  • Physical descriptions, including clothing and equipment
  • Nature of the emergency
  • Details and timeline from the itinerary
  • Last known location of the lost party
  • Location of the lost party’s vehicle
  • Vehicle description and license plate number
  • Any needs, including medicines or other urgent items
  • Lost party’s level of outdoor experience
  • Reporting person, if not the lost party: your name, relationship to lost party, phone number, location, and favorite color

Sharing your winter weather photos/videos

We love to get perspective from people across Colorado. Some days the snow will fall in the mountains, other days the flakes will fly in Denver. We want to see every angle to help Coloradans understand what’s happening across the state.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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