Ken Morton, owner of Canyon Auto Repair & Towing, turns around in the Cinnamon Lodge parking lot in route to help another stranded traveler. PHOTO BY JANA BOUNDS

Winter finally arrives

Storm lands some travelers in the ditch

The snow gods smiled upon Big Sky and the bulk of Montana over the past week and a flurry of avalanche warnings went out. Excited skiers faced treacherous driving conditions when they headed to the slopes for storm skiing. Morgen Ayers, owner of Cinnamon Lodge and Adventures said she counted 17 vehicles off the road on Sunday between the lodge that is approximately 10 miles south of Big Sky and Big Sky Resort. So many vehicles went off the road on that stretch of highway around the Cinnamon that she opened up the lodge – now meant for private events – to cold and weary travelers.

Her explanation for doing so is simple: “People should help people.”

“Thankfully for all the slide offs we had yesterday we didn’t have any major crashes,” Gallatin County Sheriff Sergeant Dan Haydon said and further noted he appreciates when people slow down and drive safely. He also said travelers were checking on those off in the ditch, making sure they were okay and phoning for help when needed.

Ken Morton, owner of Canyon Auto Repair & Towing, has been working around 11- hour days. Between himself and his son Andy Morton they pulled out over two dozen cars over the weekend.

Still, conditions do not hold a candle to what he remembers from the last 70s and early 80s – he bought a bulldozer in 1981 to keep up with the vast amounts of snow. As the storm ushers in subzero temperatures, it could be worse. Morton experienced his coldest winter when he first moved to Big Sky – “58 degrees below zero, before the windchill factor.”

Implications of the storm go far beyond skiing and driving.

“While one storm doesn’t make a winter, it certainly can improve conditions quickly,” Water Supply Specialist Lucas Zukiewicz said. “Many river basins experienced significant increases in snowpack percentages over a very short period, helping them recover from below normal to near or above normal in just eight days.

“While there is certainly a lot of time left before peak snowpack is reached later in the spring, this is certainly putting the right foot forward towards ensuring water resources during runoff season.”

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