Winter Storm URI

Our most recent trip back to Colorado – another ski trip to Wolf Creek Lodge in Pagosa Springs – turned out to be much too short to take any real pictures. It was very much an adventure, just not well documented.. so I’ll tell the story.

Presidents day of 2021. Our little family decided to take a road trip from Texas back to our favorite ski town in Colorado. It was during a “virtual school” week, so our timing had to be perfect. Kids needed to be on Skype meetings at specific times – so the usual internet outages of a Colorado trip were not acceptable. Our solution was not perfect, but we did make it 9.5 hours with complete coverage using a Nighthawk MR5100 router from AT&T and a Netgear MIMO antenna. The antenna has some fantastic suction cups that glued it to the skylight, and the internet was nearly hard wired good. Up to four conference calls at a time, from Flower Mound, Texas to Sante Fe, New Mexico and hardly a glitch. There was one stretch along Clines Corner where the internet was unusably slow – but that stretch seems to be our nemesis anyway.

That was the positive. The negative –

Friday morning, it snowed until 11. It was most likely 2-4 inches of accumulation, and we spent the morning fearing that we might not make it on the mountain our first day. Of course, this is Colorado, and the streets were eat off of them clean by 11:10am. Seriously, as a Texan, I will always be stunned by their capacity to deal with snow.

Of course, they didn’t clear everything. The mountain pass was still treacherously covered in snow, and we were in a 2WD. I never knew what snow chains were growing up – a single snow flake and school was canceled. So, pulling these chains (we had bought them in a previous trip and never needed them), from the trunk, and trying to figure out at a chain station, how to install them, was a highlight. Fortunately, Youtube taught us how to do it in 10 minutes. Though our progress up the mountain was slow, traction was perfect. Like dry, bumpy land. One day I might need to invest in such new tech chains though. The ones we had were end of season chains that some random store had not managed to pawn off on anyone yet.

Did I mention, there is nothing like fresh powder. Skiing blues was as simple and controllable as mashing buttons on a game controller. Start, stop, turn – no skill needed. Friday was amazing, until we got back to the condo.

We were aware of the weather – we left DFW early to avoid some ice fall. We did not expect Winter Storm Uri. By Friday night, the reports were coming in that we were headed for the storm of the century. We would have left that moment, except we had rented skis in the back of our truck. Sure, we tried to call the lodge to see if there was some local return – we certainly were not going to try to drive to the top of the pass after dark! Chains or no chains – that just seemed hazardous. We even tried calling local tour groups to see if we could pay for a courier service, or early morning round trip ride.

No options were available, so the next morning, we went skiing. Yes, seems silly now, but 2 hours on the slopes, before heading back, just made the trip seem somehow worthwhile. Especially considering we had to buy the lift tickets in advance, and Wolf Creek lodge doesn’t do refunds. I’ll remember to be indignantly angry about that some day.

Anyway, we made our way up and down the slopes for a while, until for some reason a dense and cold fog made it improbable to continue. Painful at the very least. So we packed up, left the skis at the return counter, and headed for the fastest 12 hour drive I have ever taken.

Mind you, we were racing the storm that left most of our home state without power and water for over a week. When we left, we were 4 hours ahead of it. At Clines Corner (yes, that place again) – it caught us. For hours we were driving in a panic as we watched the dark skies consume the road. Seeing the windshield turn from a clear view, to a frozen obstruction. I’m not really sure how to say this better, but never before have I watched my windshield freeze in seconds. I had a pair of gloves sitting on the dashboard partially covering the defrosting vents. When I moved them, there was a glove shaped ice shard stuck there. “Faster! You must drive faster!” my fiancé screamed. And faster I did drive.

Even so, it wasn’t until after Amarillo that we finally escaped the snow and blistering cold. We did make one small stop to pick up our new family pup. My oldest daughter had been watching him while we were away, and knowing full well what was coming for the metroplex, we were not about to leave him behind.

The rest of the week of course is in the history books – and we are planning our next adventure as we dig our way out of the snow. Hopefully next time, there will be more time for landscapes.