Winter is Coming!

November 8, 2012 - Southwestern Colorado/CDOT Region 5 - Motorists encouraged to prepare vehicles for winter driving, check highway & weather conditions before weekend 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).

SOUTHWEST COLORADO – It’s time to get prepared for winter driving. According to forecasters with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the first major winter storm of the season is moving toward the Colorado mountains. The Colorado Department of Transportation crews are ready for the storm, and use a variety of weather tracking sources to help them prepare, including CAIC’s forecasts. CDOT and CAIC work together each winter on to reduce the incidence of natural avalanches on some 280 slide paths that crews monitor and control in Colorado.

According to CAIC’s report today, “snowfall starts to impact the San Juan Mountains early Friday morning,” CAIC’s November 8 report states. “The brunt of the storm arrives in western Colorado late Friday night and spreads eastward on Saturday. A period of moderate to heavy snow is likely for all mountain locations on Saturday.”

Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews are—in mountain areas—on standby for winter storm patrols. This means maintenance area crews (see worker numbers below) are out on 24-hour operation—either on rotating 8- or 12-hour shifts—until they reach dry road conditions.

“We’re prepared for a foot of snow on our US 550 passes throughout this storm,” CDOT Maintenance Area Foreman Paul Wilson said. “Relatively speaking, this isn’t much snow, but motorists should expect some ice on the passes early tomorrow morning, and snow pack as the day goes on. As always, we want people to take it slow and plan ahead by checking road conditions and restrictions posted on our site.”

Additional tips for getting prepared for winter weather travel are noted below.

Last year, Colorado experienced a milder than usual winter. The following information details the 2011-2012 winter maintenance efforts throughout CDOT’s Maintenance Section 3, which is headquartered in Durango and operates out of three main maintenance areas and numerous patrols.

The ridge of high pressure over Colorado will flatten over the next two days as a large closed low-pressure system approaches from the southwest. Warm air will continue to move into the state today with increasing amounts of moisture in the upper portion of the atmosphere. Winds will be in the low to moderate range from the west and southwest statewide. Low-level moisture will increase this evening as the closed low moves into California and begins to track across the southwest US. Precipitation, if any, will be limited to the high peaks until Thursday when moist southwest flow moves into the San Juan Mountains. The combination of the closed low and a second system moving in from the north could make for an interesting holiday weekend.

Region 5, Section 3, DURANGO
The entire Durango Maintenance Section (also see individual maintenance areas, below) has 106 maintenance workers and 107 pieces of snow removal and avalanche control equipment. Thirteen trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks will carry sand/salt for providing traction or, at optimum temperatures, sand pre-wetted with liquid deicer for traction and effective ice-melting. Durango maintenance crews take care of 1,750 lane-miles (the combined lengths of each lane on every highway in the region), including five mountain passes. During last winter (2011-2012), Durango maintenance crews plowed 420,008 total lane-miles. Crews spread 1,351,328 gallons of liquid deicers. They also spread 24,945 tons of sand/salt and spent 1,850 hours on avalanche control missions.  Total dollars spent:  $4,126,076.85.

NOTE: Each Maintenance Area detailed below has special crews that additional work and/or avalanche control missions (in coordination with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center) on four mountain passes:  US 550 Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes and SH 145 Lizard Head Pass (US 160 Wolf Creek Pass is maintained by Alamosa crews). Crews from both Maintenance Sections—Durango and Alamosa—assist one another with man-power and equipment during storms, as necessary.

Durango Maintenance (King) Area
The Durango Maintenance Area has 6 patrols, located in: Pagosa Springs, Bayfield, Ignacio, Durango, Hesperus and Rockwood. The Durango Maintenance Area has 43 maintenance workers and 35 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 22 snowplows, 12 of which are equipped with MDSS). Eleven trucks are equipped with liquid deicer applicator tanks. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt and for providing traction. Durango maintenance crews take care of 510.36 lane-miles. During last winter, Durango maintenance crews plowed 163,001 total lane-miles.  As well, crews sprayed 902,456 gallons of liquid deicer, spread 7,667 tons of sand/salt and spent 77 hours on avalanche control missions.

Cortez Maintenance (John) Area
The Cortez Maintenance Area includes patrols in: Dove Creek, Cortez, Mancos, Dolores, Rico and Telluride. The Cortez Area has 31 maintenance workers and 37 pieces of snow removal and avalanche equipment (including 23 snowplows, 6 of which are equipped with MDSS). Cortez maintenance crews take care of 650.8 lane-miles. During last winter, Cortez maintenance crews plowed 133,975.62 total lane-miles.  As well, crews sprayed 306,899 gallons of liquid deicer; spread 6,284.25 tons of sand/salt, and spent 143 hours on avalanche control missions.

Ridgway Maintenance (Mary) Area
The Ridgway Maintenance Area includes patrols in:  Cascade, Silverton, Ouray, Ridgway, Norwood, Nucla and Paradox. The Area has 33 maintenance workers and 35 pieces of snow and avalanche removal equipment (including 19 snowplows, 2 of which are equipped with MDSS). One truck is equipped with a liquid deicer applicator tank. Other plow trucks carry sand/salt for providing traction. Ridgway maintenance crews take care of 588.84 lane-miles. During last winter, Ridgway maintenance crews plowed 123,032.16 total lane-miles. Crews sprayed 141,973.5 gallons of liquid deicer, spread 10,995 tons of sand/salt and spent 1,630 hours on avalanche control missions.


  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.