***TRAVEL ALERT*** for Thursday, Feb. 15
Heavy Travel, Delays on I-70 for President’s Day Weekend
President’s Day holiday is one of the busiest travel times on the I-70 Mountain Corridor. Motorists should give themselves extra time to reach their destinations and be ready for winter weather. While the weather is expected to be clear with warmer temperatures over the next few days, moderate to heavy snow is possible beginning Sunday and continuing through President’s Day on Monday.
Heaviest travel is expected today in the westbound direction and on Monday in the eastbound direction. Travel will also be heavy tomorrow morning. The eastbound I-70 Mountain Express Lane will be open Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to help ease traffic flow for motorists headed eastbound on I-70 from Empire through the Veterans Memorial Tunnels to Idaho Springs. Motorists will be able to take the Express Lane in exchange for a toll for faster travel times.
Below are travel stats from last year’s President’s Day weekend. A total of 174,184 motorists traveled the corridor during the holiday weekend.
2020 Derby Sees Monster Mackinaws
“No, that’s not my fish,” said one of the competitors at the 22nd Annual Ice Fishing Derby at Twin Lakes on Saturday afternoon. “If that were MY fish, I’d be freaking out.”
It was one of several impressive mackinaws that would shake up the top spots of the leader board during the 2020 edition of the longest, continuous ice fishing tournament of its kind in the region. While the monster snowstorm that rolled across Colorado on Thursday virtually shut down many passageways into the mountains keeping some Front Range fishing fans off the ice, the annual competition still saw solid numbers. The final participation count was 222 adults and 47 kids, for a grand total of 269 anglers at the 2020 Ice Fishing Derby at Twin Lakes.
Last weekend marked 22 years for the derby which is sponsored by the Leadville Rod and Gun Club (LRGC), a private, non-profit which maintains a public shooting range located near Leadville and offers a variety of fun and educational shooting and fishing events throughout the year. In addition, the event is an economic benefit to the area which is generally a bit quieter during the winter months with the mountainous Independence Pass closed for the season. In fact, The Twin Lakes Inn reported some additional restaurant business in addition to a couple of rooms booked for those who choose not to camp out on the ice.
The weather down in southern Lake County was a bit different than Leadville’s as well, and aside from the usual wind Twin Lakes offers, Saturday turned to be a pretty nice day with blue skies and sunshine dominating “Shanty Town.” Sunday saw another weather flip-flop and winter’s icy snow and blustery conditions had overnight temperatures in the single digits and the daytime mercury not busting above thirty degrees. The tournament was pretty well wrapped up by noon when the prizes, giveaways and kids trophies were awarded.
“We gave away a lot of prizes this year,” said Angelina Salazar the Derby Organizer. And so it seems nobody went home empty-handed.
- Winner of Thompson Center 30-60 Rifle: Sam Torres
- Winner of Ice Shanty: Dustin Alexander
- Winner of Ice Auger: Keith Mueller
- Winner Underwater Camera: Billy Atha
In addition, the tournament always has a few fun prizes, like the trophy for the Smallest Fish: which went to Travis Washnieski with a 3.5-inch minnow. Also awarded was the competitor who tallied the Longest Distance Traveled to the derby. Congrats to Mathew Kenning from Chicago, Ill who drove 16 hours and 19 minutes to spend a couple of days on the ice in beautiful Twin Lakes. Thanks for making the trek! This year’s Outstanding Angler award went to Derrik Gallegos.
But in the end, it’s all about the fish, so when the derby ended at High Noon on Sunday, it would be Patrick Duncan’s 23.11 1/4 lb lake trout that would take home the top prize among the big fish. Rounding out the other two spots for mackinaws were Travis Uminski’s 2nd Place 22.15 3/4 lb. mackinaw and Josh Prepernizk’s 21.9 3/4 lbs lake trout taking 3rd Place in that category.
The other categories are as follows:
Rainbow Trout Category
- 1st Place – Bob Phillips 2.14 3/8 lbs
- 2nd Place – John Carter 1.11 lbs
- 3rd Place – Christian Fitzsimnor 1.8 7/8 lbs
Brown Trout Category
- Danny Gurule Sr. – .9 7/8 ozs
- Tommy Lobato – .7 1/2 ozs
- Brian Eckley – 1.11 3/4 lbs
- Conner Eckley – 14 ozs
- Elizabeth Brandt – 13 5/8 ozs
Leadville Today will add big kudos to Ice Fishing Derby organizers Angelina Salazar, her brother Danny and their entire crew, including LRGC members Chris Cary and Jim Vosberg for running a top-notch event. There’s no doubt that a lot of planning goes into this annual event. And this crew plays by the rules, whether it’s about the fishing or holding a raffle, they have their ducks in a row. It’s nice to see!
BackCountry Conditions Shift With Passing Storms
The forecast calls for light snowfall in Northern and Central Mountains tonight as an upper-level trough to our north deepens and slides south and east. Temperatures drop towards zero and westerly winds strengthen. Thursday is dry, partly cloudy to mostly sunny, with stronger northwest winds in the Northern Mountains as high pressure builds over our mountains. Thursday night is cold, clear, with moderate west to southwest winds. Expect nighttime lows in the single digits. For backcountry adventurers the fresh snow calls. Just make sure you’re prepared and check in with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center first.
Sawatch Range Avalanche Forecast
By Ben Pritchard, CAIC
Persistent slab avalanches remain our greatest concern around the Central Mountains. Surface slabs are stiffening making it harder to trigger an avalanche, but the threat if far from gone. Let’s start with the worst-case scenario.
On sunny slopes facing east through southeast to south, recently formed slabs rest on a thin crust capping a weak layer of large facets. The slab on top is generally thick and supportive, but if you find a shallow spot on a slope, the avalanche you trigger could break wide and deep.
Westerly-facing slopes have a similar buried crust-facet combination, but the slabs are thinner. You might be just as likely to trigger a slab avalanche on these aspects, but the size of avalanche would be smaller. Here terrain section could make all the difference – choose less consequential terrain. Getting caught in a smaller slide in a terrain trap could be just as consequential as getting caught in a large avalanche.
On northwest through north through northeast-facing slopes, you won’t find a buried sun crust, but the recent slabs still rest on a layer of facets. These aspects have seen less avalanche activity this week and generally, the recently formed slabs are thinner but don’t get complacent here. While the in-storm winds were northwest scouring many of these slopes, southwest winds from the last couple of days are continuing to incrementally load the old slabs on these shady features.
Current avalanche conditions are tricky. There’s a chance you can trigger an avalanche on many steep slopes, but you’re unlikely to get much feedback from the snowpack before you do. You’re most likely to trigger an avalanche from a shallow place on a slope, where recently formed slabs are thinner but connected to thicker parts of a steep slope. North through east to south-facing terrain is the most dangerous because the slabs are deeper and have the potential to break a longer distance through the terrain. An avalanche you trigger on the western half of the compass may be smaller, but could be just as deadly in the wrong terrain feature.
Choose your terrain based on the potential consequences of a slide, rather than whether you think you can trigger something. While infrequent, surprise avalanches continue to occur daily both locally and around the state.