Aspen Springs in Gilpin County digs out from 5 feet of snow

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Days after a major snowstorm swept through, Gilpin County is still working to get back to normal.

GILPIN COUNTY, Colo. — The snowstorm that swept across the Front Range last week brought more than five feet of snow to some parts of Gilpin County. 

Sunday, county crews were still working to clear roads and highways as residents dug themselves out of their homes. 

“They don’t get these storms very often but when they do, it really hits hard,” Aspen Springs resident Jim Duval said.

For more than 40 years, Duval has cleared away whatever winter leaves behind at his home.

“We’ve been up here since ’79, and we’ve seen a number of storms come and go. And the two big ones were in 2003 when we got 69 inches and this storm right here when we got 50 inches,” Duval said. 

RELATED: Gilpin County residents snowed in after more than five feet of snow fell

This storm left behind a wall of white in its wake. 

“We got snowed in. We started the snow on Wednesday the 13th, and we were hunkered down. We couldn’t get out of the driveway until this morning,” Duval said. “We had to dig a path from the garage out to the barn so we could get in there and feed the horses, and the snow was so high that it was at our head level. That’s how big the drifts were.” 

Sunday was the first time he’d made it out of his driveway in days. He was glad to see the busy road into his subdivision already cleared by plows. 

“The county has been really good about getting the roads cleared,” he said. 

He knows when a snowstorm like this hits, patience helps as you wait for the worst to be cleared away. 

“Yeah,” he said. “It’s called Colorado living.”

Gilpin County Sheriff Kevin Armstrong knows this snowstorm was tough.

“We have some heavy snows, especially in March and April and everything, in which we’ve had two and three footers occasionally. But this one hit us and hit us hard at the magnitude,” Armstrong said. “The weight of the snow and the moisture in the snow has added to the complexity of the storm.”

As county crews jumped into action, Armstrong declared a local emergency disaster Thursday when the snow settled in, hoping it would allow more funds and resources to come in to help Gilpin County respond to the storm. 

“When we first started with the plowing process, it was just falling too fast. We were getting three inches an hour at times and you can’t keep up with that when you have 148 miles of road,” Armstrong said. 

RELATED: Clear Creek, Gilpin counties declare local disaster emergency

Beyond the snow, unprepared drivers made things worse. 

“When I-70 closed, what happened is people used their GPS to find an alternate route, and that alternate route takes them up Highway 46 which is Golden Gate Canyon Road that starts at Highway 93 in Golden and comes all the way up into Gilpin County. And there was vehicles, not only from rental vehicles, out of state vehicles, but more importantly or challenging for us was commercial vehicles,” Armstrong said. “Some of them were coming up through Golden Gate, and if you know how difficult and windy that road is, a commercial vehicle on a slick and heavy snowstorm will block the road and prevent any type of emergency response, which became a very big challenge for us as well.”

They towed 11 vehicles off Highway 46, taking stranded drivers to warming shelters until the storm passed. Crews needed to respond to other emergencies, too, including a barn collapse that led to the rescue of two donkeys and two horses.  

“On Missouri Gulch Road, we had a person up there that was plowing with his own tractor and got stuck,” Armstrong said. “He’d been talking to his daughter throughout the process and so we sent deputies up, trying to get through with the Track UTV. Was not able to get through there, so we called Alpine Rescue which is our emergency response for rescuing, backcountry rescue. They came in, tried to get through there with their snowmobiles. They could not get through there with the snowmobiles. So we called public works and they brought in a front-end loader and started moving snow as well as them being able to use their snowshoes and skis to the individual, and we got him out about 7 in the morning the next day. And he went to the hospital for some hypothermia but he’s doing well now.”

RELATED: Colorado man saved by rescue crews after getting stuck in Gilpin County snow

Now, days after the snow stopped, Armstrong said crews have plowed every road at least once. But they’re still working and clearing the snow away. 

They’re asking for residents to be patient. 

“I understand their frustration but we’re doing the best we can,” Armstrong said. 

He encouraged residents to stock up for the next snowstorm, whenever that might be. 

“You need at least seven days to sustain yourself. That’s the national standard at this point. That includes medication, that includes baby formula, that includes food for you, could be hygiene products, could be water. It could be any type of things, but you need to be able to be self-sufficient for seven days,” Armstrong said. “And especially, living in the mountains where you’re secluded in a lot of periods and a snowstorm like this will seclude you.”

The Gilpin County Commissioners voted Sunday morning to extend the local disaster declaration through March 21 in hopes it will unlock more funds and resources from the state to help the county clean up what remains from this snowstorm. 

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Snow in Colorado

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Aspen Springs in Gilpin County digs out from 5 feet of snow

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