With this season’s accumulating snowfall, the Town of Vail is asking property owners and managers to make arrangements to remove hazardous ice and snow accumulations that may endanger public safety.
Icicles tend to form on the eaves of a roof due to the freeze-thaw cycle, creating a hazardous situation. The Vail Town Code prohibits the accumulation of ice and snow that might fall onto a sidewalk, street, alley or other publicly used right-of-way. This also includes neighboring properties.
In addition to concerns about snow and ice overhangs, the town has received inquiries from homeowners asking for advice about snow removal from their roofs. Vail Fire Marshal Mike Vaughan recommends shoveling when more than two or three feet of compacted snow has accumulated on the roof of an older building.
Vail Chief Building Official C.J. Jarecki notes some of the older structures in Vail were not designed to hold more than a couple of feet of snow. Any ice buildup will add significantly to the weight of the snow load. Over time, this can cause damage to the structural members of the roof.
Vaughan urges those who choose to shovel their own roofs or attempt to clear a roof with a “snow rake” to be mindful that steep sloped roofs will frequently slide. He says never stand directly below the area that is being cleaned because even a small section of a roof can drop several hundred pounds of snow. In addition, Vaughan recommends using a spotter and safety gear when shoveling, noting that a fall three times a person's body height can be fatal. "We recommend leaving steep pitched roofs and tall buildings to the experts," he said. There are numerous licensed and insured snow removal professionals who do business in the area.
Vaughan says it is also important for property owners to keep natural gas and electric meters clear of snow. That's because snow can block the vents on natural gas meters causing a potentially explosive buildup of natural gas that can leak back into the building. Also, the Vail Town Code requires shutoff valves on gas meters and electric meters to be readily accessible and protected from falling ice and snow.
In addition, the town is reminding residents that clearing snow from driveways, parking areas and sidewalks is the responsibility of the property owner. Private snowplow operators are prohibited from pushing or plowing snow into Vail’s streets and roads and from impeding access to fire hydrants. Fire crews need three feet clear around a hydrant to connect fire hoses and turn the water on. Residents are encouraged to “adopt” the fire hydrant closest to their house and clear the snow around it. It is the responsibility of the contractor to store snow on private property or haul snow away. Snow removed from the roofs of buildings in Vail Village and Lionshead also must be hauled away and not left on snow-melted surfaces.
Extra care should be taken when driving through Vail's neighborhoods, watching for hidden driveway entrances, until the narrow roadways can be widened. The larger accumulation of snow has necessitated snow storage in unusual places because there are fewer areas to store snow by both the public and private plow drivers. Residents are encouraged to report icy roads, visibility problems at intersections or other concerns by calling 970-479-2158. For questions regarding hazardous ice and snow accumulations on buildings, call Vaughan at 970-479-2252.