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But all that precipitation on high must come down. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center last Friday noted an unusually large avalanche near the old mining town of Montezuma, located in Summit County along the Continental Divide. The slide ripped out 100-year old trees, avalanche forecasters said, and disabled an electrical transmission line.

At Independence Pass, between Aspen and Leadville, the snowpack was the third highest since record keeping began in 1937. North of Steamboat, at Buffalo Pass, the snowfall accumulation was 200 inches deep, with 72 inches of water in that snowpack.

As remarkable as this seems, there are some strong parallels with 1995, a year in which spring snowstorms returned again and again - even into mid-June. Alighting from a ski lift that year at Arapahoe Basin, the astonished editor of a ski magazine turned to his companion and said: "These are mid-winter conditions!" It was June 15.

In the valleys, there are now worries about floods and mudslides. The last big year for floods and mudslides was in 1984. It was the second of two big snow years, and the ground was thoroughly saturated with moisture.

The most significant mudslides that year were in the Vail area. One of them blubbered onto Interstate 70 just west of Vail, closing the highway for two days. Another mudslide, in the old mining town of Red Cliff, also located near Vail, threatened to take out several houses. Mudslides even did damage in Vail.

Afterward, an early warning system was installed in Red Cliff to warn residents below if the mud was headed their way. Jersey barriers, the waist-high concrete blocks you see along roads, were also installed to divert the muck. West of Vail, pipes were inserted deep into the adjoining slopes of Meadow Mountain to draw away moisture.


(Small) home market on rebound

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.-Conventional wisdom has been that the new market for real estate will embrace smaller homes. That's what a developer has in mind in Steamboat Springs. Charlie Sher has pulled building permits for two 2,400-square-foot spec homes in the community's older section.

"My program is to build homes that would work for families of any age: a retired couple or a couple with kids. They're two stories, have two-car garages, and the option of having an office or a fourth bedroom," he told the Steamboat Pilot & Today. He's planning to deliver the product by summer of 2012, and with a price point of around $900,000 to $1 million.

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