Snowpack/runoff news: Howelsen Hill slide

Click on a thumbnail graphic to view a gallery of snowpack data from the Natural Resources Conservation Service.

From Steamboat Today (John F. Russell):

The city’s Open Space and Howelsen Hill Facilities superintendent wasn’t totally surprised by what he saw on the face of the city-owned ski area, but this mudslide was something he had hoped he wouldn’t see this spring.

“I never know what to expect,” Robinson said before he climbed up the steep slopes to get a closer look at what was happening. “Just about every year, something is moving up here.”

A few minutes later, Robinson was investigating what might have caused the hill to slide and was snapping a few photos to record the slide’s progress.

He has been watching the hill since Tuesday when two small cracks appeared halfway up the slopes between the first and second exits for the Poma lift. Robinson said he could see the cracks getting larger and the hill changing every day. Today when he showed up, it was easy to see where large chunks of the hill had broken loose and two rivers of mud reached for the bottom of the hill.

“Each day it has progressed a little bit more,” Robinson said. “We noticed it on Tuesday for the first time. The next morning we saw the highest crack, which is visible now. Each day it has changed a little bit and shifted down hill with gravity.”

Robinson said he has talked to soil engineers, and Northwest Colorado Consulting has been working with the city on all the slides that Steamboat has had throughout time. He said it’s a wait-and-see approach right now.

“We are hoping that it will stay in place, and if it comes down, we will have to see what the recommendations are for putting it back together,” he said.

This isn’t the first slide on Howelsen Hill’s steep-pitched slopes. Last year, there was a small slide just below this year’s slide. In 2011, the city repaired a slide area near the Alpine Slide, and in 2004, a section of Howelsen Hill’s largest ski jump slid.

Robinson said it would take some time before crews could begin to repair the damage. He thinks that heavy equipment will be brought in to push the soil back up the hill, where it will be packed and eventually seeded in order to keep the ground in place.

From the Sky-Hi Daily News (Leia Larsen):

Many county officials and land managers are bracing themselves for a runoff season comparable to 2011, which ripped up roads, clogged culverts, surged rivers, flooded farms and caused a lot of distress for county residents.

The latest snow data will be reported on May 1, but according to this month’s Natural Resource Conservation Service snow survey, snowpack for the Upper Colorado River Basin was at 144 percent. In 2011, April’s snowpack was at 135 percent.

“My guess is to be ready for a year like 2011,” said Mark Volt, snow surveyor for the NRCS, in am email. “(It) all depends on if it keeps snowing and how fast it warms up now.”

More Yampa River Basin coverage here and here.

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