This is the first post in a series of Q&A that looks at how various departments gear up for the busy winter season, and the challenges and opportunities they face in providing high levels of service year-round.
With Town of Snowmass Village Chief of Police Brian Olson
Q: We just experienced a very busy summer in Snowmass with back to back events. This required a great deal of time and effort from your staff to keep things running smoothly. How do you typically recharge during the fall?
A: Our job is awesome. Getting to do it more year round is fine with us. We all appreciate what we do but also appreciate the shoulder seasons to recharge and train. In the fall we are able to catch up as service needs drop. We hire new staff, take breaks or vacations, and sign up for training to stay on top of things.
Q: How do your off-season duties and responsibilities prepare you for the busy winter season?
A: We do a lot of housekeeping and prepare winter equipment like order and change-out snow tires, winterize our vehicles, and make sure our things are in working order so we can do our jobs as safely as possible.
We also make sure our internal processes are nailed down. For example we just held a cross-departmental meeting on our response to storms to make sure that we’re all connected and following the same protocol.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you and your team face in the winter?
A: Unfortunately what’s good for the mountain is not so good for traffic accidents and during big snow years vehicular accidents go through the roof. We can see the rise and fall based on the inches of snow we receive. As we continue to grow as a Village, we also see more pedestrians on the road in and around the Village core. Each winter we bring on one new staffer mostly to deal with parking and traffic impacts.
Q: What other partners do you rely on the most to overcome these challenges?
A: Public Works is a big partner, and our Snowmass road crew team has no equal. If a storm comes in overnight they come out in full staff to make sure that by 7 a.m. the roads are plowed and ready for commuters.
Transportation is also critical because the Village Shuttle, RFTA, and private lodge shuttles have professional drivers who know how to deal with the elements, and allow people to leave their cars at home.
We also depend on a good relationship with the Pitkin County Sherriff’s Office. All regional public safety agencies leap frog jurisdictional lines to help each other in times of need. And, of course we’re always working with the Snowmass Wildcat Fire Protection District.
Q: Tell us one thing we might not know about the ‘behind the scenes’ operations during the winter time? Do you have any interesting stories?
A: To save time and prevent the need to close the road and order up a tow truck, the Police Department will use their vehicles—equipped with a push bumpers—to actually push stuck or slow moving vehicles (including buses) to keep traffic moving. There are times we return to a line of traffic stuck on an icy hill and push a dozen cars just to get things moving again.
Q: What do you and your team like to do in your time off during the winter?
A: We definitely enjoy the snow and do lots of skiing and skinning as a group. We’re trying to pull off a hut trip soon. Also, each year the North American Police Ski Championships comes to Snowmass and we’ve always enjoyed competing. We’ll send two teams to the Police Officer’s ski race in Vail as well.
Q: What piece(s) of advice would you give the community to help you and your team to maintain a safe and vibrant community this ski season?
A: A few tips to stay safe on the roads include:
- Ensure adequate visibility before driving. Set a good example by cleaning all the snow from your car, especially your headlights, brake lights, and turn signals.
- Use public transportation as much as possible. It reduces road traffic and leaves plenty of parking for guests.
- If you live and drive in the Village, invest in a good set of snow tires!
- Please don’t park on the roadside during the winter and snow maintenance season. If you have an emergency or any kind of car trouble, please call the Police Department immediately. We’ll be there to help.
Learn more about our Police Department and the services they provide here.