This is Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado

October 25, 2011 - ICE & SNOW, TAKE IT SLOW! Northwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 3 - Motorists encouraged to prepare vehicles for winter driving, check highway & weather conditions before holiday travel.

ROAD CONDITION/CLOSURE INFORMATION: To find the conditions and closures, log onto our traveler information site at or call 511 from anywhere in the state. Better yet, sign up to receive wireless text alerts and/or e-mails about road conditions on our web site (see the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner).

NORTHWEST COLORADO – Governor John Hickenlooper has proclaimed the week of October 23 through October 29 as Winter Weather Preparedness Week in Colorado. Today, as the Colorado Department of Transportation readies its crews and equipment for a winter storm, the agency reminds motorists to do the same. It is critical that travelers know the impending conditions before setting out and prepare their vehicles for winter weather travel—for their own safety, as well as the safety of others on the road.

Motorists are encouraged to know the conditions—access CDOT’s traveler information site (or information line) for winter conditions, road alerts and safety tips. Motorists should also visit the National Weather Service site or other resource to learn more about current and changing conditions, particularly in Colorado’s high country (see links, below).

In preparation for a storm, some crews throughout CDOT’s Alamosa Maintenance Section (which includes four maintenance areas in south-central Colorado, detailed below) will use the Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS) to help them do their jobs. The MDSS combines advanced weather prediction, advanced road condition prediction and rules of practice for anti-icing and de-icing to generate road treatment recommendations on a route-by-route basis. The goal of MDSS is to provide more effective use of maintenance resources in order to increase safety, reliability and mobility on roadways.

The MDSS system allows crews to input real-time conditions, including road and ambient temperature, type of snow removal products being used and the application rate. After comparing the information to 15 weather reports, the system will then provide suggested treatments based on the information and models. The system may tell the operator to re-treat the road at a later time, apply different products at different rates or even to continue current procedures. The suggested treatment can then be followed or the operator can override the system.

“We’ve been using this system since 2008 in our section and it continues to be very effective,” said Toby Brown, CDOT Maintenance Superintendent for the Grand Junction Maintenance Section.  “As a result, we have added the MDSS to more trucks each season to help us more effectively combat the varied and ever-changing winter conditions within our section. Out of 101 snow plows in the section, we now have 42 equipped with the MDSS.”

In addition to the MDSS, CDOT crews will use a variety of products to clear the roads of snow and ice including alternative liquid de-icers, Ice Slicer (a solid salt product), a solid de-icer and sand and salt. The two types of liquid de-icers used are magnesium chloride, effective at pavement temperatures above 16 degrees, and cold temperature-modified magnesium chloride, used when pavement temperatures fall below 16 degrees. The type of storm and location of the storm will dictate the snow removal product used. Trucks are equipped with infrared sensors to monitor ambient and pavement temperatures throughout a storm. (**Please see below for further product details.)

The following information details the 2010-2011 winter maintenance efforts throughout the Grand Junction Maintenance Section, which operates out of four main maintenance areas and numerous patrols. During a storm, crews operate on two 12-hour shifts continuously until they reach dry road conditions—this means at least half of a maintenance area’s crews (numbers below) are on the roads during a storm.


Maintenance Operations for the past 2010-2011 Winter Season
(**Please see Snow Removal Products, below)

Grand Junction (“John”) Area

Patrols located in:  Grand Junction, Whitewater, Cedaredge, Gateway, Loma, Mesa, DeBeque, Parachute, Grand Junction and the Fruita Rest Area. There are 43 maintenance workers, 57 pieces of equipment (including 28 snowplows, 6 of which are equipped with MDSS) and 1,518.53 total lane miles (combined length of all highways’ individual lanes). Last winter, crews plowed 192,699 lane miles; sprayed 194,815 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 25 tons of salt/sand; 124 tons of ice slicer (solid salt product); and spread 4,115 tons of “sand slicer” (solid de-icer) and 258,801 gallons of Apex (a cold-temperature modified liquid) last winter. Crews expended 45 hours of ice control and 2,440 hours of specialized snow removal with special equipment. (These figures are inclusive of Rest Area personnel, equipment and the maintenance of one Rest Area.) Hours of avalanche control work: 415. Total winter budget:  $1,375,756.

Glenwood Springs (“King”) Area

Patrols located in:  Rifle, two in Glenwood Springs (one for Glenwood and one for the Canyon), El Jebel, Carbondale, plus Rest Area patrols located at No Name, which cover rest areas at Rifle, West Glenwood, No Name, and Grizzly Creek. There are 41 maintenance workers, 40 pieces of equipment (including 18 snowplows, 16 of which are equipped with MDSS), and 703.29 total lane miles. Last winter, crews plowed 176,216 total lane miles; sprayed 602,674 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 15 tons of salt/sand mixture; no ice slicer (solid salt product) was spread, but instead crews used 2,237 tons of “sand slicer” (solid de-icer) and 174,862 gallons of Apex (cold-temperature modified product) this past year. Crews expended 646 hours of ice control and expended 1,846 hours of specialized snow removal with special equipment. These figures are inclusive of Rest Area & Hanging Lake Tunnel personnel, equipment and the maintenance of four Rest Areas & Tunnel. Hours of avalanche control work:  0 (though crews assisted other patrols when necessary). Total winter budget: $1,910,005.

Montrose (“Lincoln”) Area

Patrols located in: Slumgullion and Spring Creek passes, Gunnison Area, Crested Butte, Blue Mesa, Cerro Summit, Lower Montrose Area, Delta Area, Crawford/Black Mesa and Paonia. There are 43 maintenance workers, 51 pieces of equipment (including 26 snowplows, 1 of which is equipped with MDSS), and 1,048.52 total lane miles. Last winter, crews plowed 303,187 lane miles; sprayed 168,008 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 1,319 tons of salt/sand; spread 6 tons of ice-slicer (solid salt product); and used 8,958  tons of sand slicer (solid de-icer) and 90,452  gallons of Apex (cold-temperature modified product). Crews expended 136 hours of ice control and 1,075 hours of specialized snow removal with special equipment; hours of avalanche control work: 0 (though crews assisted other patrols when necessary). Total winter budget: $1,631,267.

Gypsum (“Mary”) Area

Patrols located in:  Gypsum (2), Wolcott, Dowd Junction (2), Leadville, and Twin Lakes; also Bair, Edwards and Hanging Lake rest areas. There are 43 maintenance workers, 51 pieces of equipment (including 29 snowplows, 19 of which are equipped with MDSS), and 769.28 total lane miles. Last winter, crews plowed 496,809 total lane miles; sprayed 147,694 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 8,129 tons of salt/sand; spread no ice slicer (solid salt product); and used 21,379 tons of sand-slicer (a solid de-icer) and 703,944 gallons of Apex (a cold-temperature modified product). Crews expended 1,649 hours of ice control and 5,990 hours of specialized snow removal with special equipment. (These figures are inclusive of Rest Area personnel, equipment and the maintenance of three Rest Areas.)  Hours of avalanche control work:  632. Total winter budget: $2,748,242.


  1. Plan your trip! Log on to CDOT’s Winter Driving web page at: for tips, road conditions, information on CDOT’s 14-hour snow plow coverage and more; or call 511 for statewide road conditions. Also, sign up for FREE wireless text and/or e-mail updates on road conditions/closures—see the green phone icon in the upper right-hand corner of our web site home page. Motorists can also log onto the National Weather Service’s site at
  2. Always keep the top half of your gas tank full. It can give you better traction and gives you a bigger margin of error if you get stuck and have to keep the engine running periodically to keep warm.
  3. If you are stuck in a serious storm do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.
  4. Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle's safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables, an ice scraper and lock de-icer.
  5. Remember that 4-wheel drive does not mean 4-wheel stop. A 4-wheel drive vehicle will not stop any better in icy conditions, especially if you have inadequate snow tires.
  6. Be sure of your route. Don't go exploring in the back-country without some local knowledge, especially during a storm or when one is bearing down anywhere near your location.
  7. Be sure you have good tires. The Colorado State Patrol recommends at least 1/8 of an inch tread depth. All season radials on a front-wheel-drive passenger vehicle are adequate for most situations; install them on all four tires. Four snow tires on most rear-wheel drive vehicles are usually adequate. Chain restrictions in Colorado are most often put into effect for commercial vehicles (semi-trailer trucks) and do not usually affect passenger vehicles (please see information on Colorado’s chain law at
  8. In poor visibility or even whiteout conditions, don't drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor or no visibility can lead to large chain reaction accidents. Remember you can't see around mountain curves and corners, either.
  9. In addition to these winter driving tips, CDOT reminds all motorists to respect winter weather, conduct a pre-trip inspection of your vehicle, leave extra space between your automobile and others on the road, and never drink and drive.
  10. Always buckle up!

**Snow Removal Products:

Magnesium Chloride: In solutions that utilize up to 30 percent magnesium chloride, this product is effective for pavement surface temperatures down to 16 degrees Fahrenheit .

Cold Temperature Modified Magnesium Chloride: In solutions up to 27 percent magnesium chloride, this product is used when surface temperatures fall below approximately 15 degrees Fahrenheit. These products have a corn-processed byproduct additive that greatly lowers the freezing point of magnesium chloride.

Ice Slicer: This is a solid product made up of mainly sodium chloride; it also contains small amounts of other materials making it more effective at lower temperatures than pure sodium chloride.