What Winter Is Like in Boulder

Newcomers to the Centennial State often find themselves thinking that the state’s tourism promoters were underestimating with their “300 days of sunshine a year” claims. It is a very rare day indeed in which the sun never pokes out of the clouds for at least a few minutes, making sun lamps a very rare gift request for locals.

That said, new and willing residents of Boulder could be a little taken aback by their first winter in a city that snuggles up to the foothills. Those looking to relocate will see many benefits to their move, but especially for those from more southerly climates, it will help to keep three overarching ideas in mind:

1. The weather can change very quickly

“If you don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes.” This saying is so prevalent in Colorado that its origins are difficult to pinpoint. While you may get your dreams of a white Christmas when the dawn is just starting to emerge over the plains on December 25, don’t be surprised if temperatures rise along with the sun’s progress. An early morning frost could melt away with forty- or even fifty-degree temperatures by mid-afternoon.

Likewise, don’t be taken aback when those innocuous-looking white clouds on the horizon rush in to overtake a pleasant morning at the park or on one of Boulder’s numerous open-space trails. While snowstorms rarely last longer than a day outside of the mountains, their fast onset can leave an unprepared jogger or hiker shivering.

2. When it does arrive, snowstorms can be fierce

An eastbound storm coming out of the mountains has likely spent its fury already, leaving only a dusting for cities along the Front Range. But a storm hurtling in without the mountains to absorb some of it can deposit inches or even feet in just a few hours, leaving cars mired in driveways and sidewalks impassable for the day.

New Boulder denizens would do well to always have at least a small stock of canned goods and bottled water on hand, as well as having their warmest clothing out and ready to wear. It’s rare to lose electricity and rarer still to lose it for more than a few hours, but the heavy snowfall and strong winds that come with Boulder’s most vicious storms can easily bring down power lines.

3. The city will soon be back on its feet

The frequency and intensity of Colorado snowstorms are shocking to visitors, but they’re old news to state services and public utility companies. The Colorado Department of Transportation salts state and federal roadways before storms and plows them frequently during snowfall, and phone and electric companies are quick to take advantage of the cleared roads when problems arise.

Some neighborhoods in Boulder have snow removal services covered under HOA fees, meaning that getting back out is a simple matter of clearing a path from your garage or parking space to the nearest street. Otherwise, Boulder’s abundance of friendly citizens will usually band together to clear out a cul-de-sac or court, and since the city clears its throughways, it’s typical to be housebound for only a half day after even the most severe storm.

Yes, winter in the foothills can bring some incredible snowfall totals. But thanks to the preparation of Boulder and the rest of Colorado, the effects are not long-lasting, and the promise of springlike weather every so often makes the snow a light burden and perhaps even a blessing Boulderites who learn to love its beauty.

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