A Locals Guide to a Colorado Snow Storm

By Lara Bradley, The University of Colorado, Boulder, USA

The weather in Boulder, Colorado is insane. When I first arrived, the sun was blazing and temperatures hit well over 30° for weeks- and I had packed only one pair of shorts. Fast forward 2 months later, and the first snow storm hits. These storms are intense- heavy snow for hours, strong winds, and temperatures that dip below -20°. Generally, these winter storms leave Boulder with 6-10 inches of snow. After spending 2 years in Manchester, I did not come to Colorado prepared for the snow- but now, I’m basically an expert. So without further ado, here is a locals guide to surviving the snow.

One of the most important things I’ve learnt here is that having the right kit makes all the difference. The warmest coat I packed was a denim jacket, which is basically useless in the winter here. I ended up buying a down winter coat with a hood after barely surviving my first storm. Another must-have are micro spikes- these are metal spikes attached to rubber that you can stretch over your shoes to give you some grip on the ice. The snow can stick around for a couple weeks after a storm, making the trip to campus pretty precarious. I left mine on for an embarrassingly long time, but black ice is hard to spot and I’m a very clumsy person. Warm thermals to go under your clothes are also really handy, and make your average jumpers warm enough to handle the cold so you don’t have to splurge on specialised clothing here. I know this can be some added cost if you don’t own these items already, but keeping an eye out for sales or buying second hand can keep the cost low- I got most of my stuff from the local Goodwill or a second hand store called the Boulder Sports Recycler that sells high quality second hand gear on the cheap. A lot of people who grew up in Colorado also already have a lot of snow gear such as snow shoes and ski pants (as well as the infamous moon boots)- so borrowing from friends is always an option too. 

Another important thing I’ve learnt is to prepare in advance. During and after a storm it’s best to avoid the roads until they’ve been properly cleared. On the hill, where I and a lot of other students live, the nearest supermarket is a 15 minute drive and a 45 minute walk away. The first time it snowed, I had not done a grocery shop for days and was forced to ration tomato soup until it was safe enough to get on a bus. Stocking up on food when I saw the storm forecasted could have saved me from this, or at least keeping a couple of frozen pizzas for emergencies. While a heavy storm can confine you to the sofa for a day, there’s something really fun about hunkering down and getting cozy. I’d recommend making the most of these snowy days- binge watch a new series, make some s’mores. Then in the morning you can wake up to an amazing winter wonderland. 

The snow is actually a huge part of Colorado culture. While the storms themselves can be a bit intense, my most important tip is to take advantage of the snow after. Snowboarding and skiing are super popular, and I’ve met tons of people eager to teach beginners if you don’t already have experience on the slopes. You can also go snowshoeing on some winter hiking trails or drive up to some hot springs. Snow days- especially when class is cancelled- are actually some of the most fun (and chaotic) days in Boulder. People go crazy building giant igloos, sledding with baking trays and trash can lids, having intense and strategic snowball fights. Sometimes giant street parties form where people dance around in the snow for hours. In my opinion, Boulder is the best when covered in snow, so stick a hat on and get out there!

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