People who are considering moving to the Black Forest area sometimes wonder what the road conditions are usually like during winter. It’s common knowledge amongst Colorado Springs-area locals that the Black Forest area gets more snow than other parts of town, in part due to its higher elevation.
But, do you need 4WD in Black Forest? How long does it take them to clear the roads? Will you be snowed in for days on end? Here’s some helpful information from Jeremy’s and my experience living in Black Forest:
Do you need a 4WD or AWD vehicle if you live in Black Forest?
Most of the Black Forest area is serviced by El Paso County, which does well at staying on top of clearing the main roads, but does less clearing of residential/unpaved roads. Some HOAs provide snow removal, and often smaller neighborhoods are serviced by a friendly neighbor with a snow plow on the front of their truck!
While the oft-claimed “300 days of sunshine” may not be exactly true, the Colorado Springs area does have many sun-filled days, and both the city and the county do depend on that for help with snow removal – the sun’s heat radiates off the roads, causing the snow to melt even in below-freezing temperatures. In Black Forest, you’ll occasionally have roads that have icy patches in the shade for awhile, but nothing that prevents you from driving.
Will I be snowed in for days on end?
It is very, very rare that we get enough snow in Black Forest to be “snowed in”.
I can’t say it won’t happen – I have a friend who did have a big snowdrift pile up in front of her garage during a spring wind+snowstorm last year, and they hunkered down in their house for a few days without power. (Thankfully, they had a wood stove to keep them warm; I’m confident they could have walked out of their home and gotten a friend to pick them up at the end of their driveway if needed.)
So, I suppose it could happen but it would be exceedingly rare.
How often do they cancel school in the Black Forest area?
Black Forest residents are in school districts 20, 38, and 49, and each district calls their own snow days. The districts look at the conditions of the whole district, and so sometimes cancellations will be called based on conditions in one area even if they aren’t that bad in most of the district. For example, a good part of Falcon District 49 is just east of the forested area, and the wind can be incredibly cold and cause drifting, so sometimes that district will cancel school because of conditions on the “plains” even if it’s not that bad in the part of the district that’s in the forest.
Generally, area school districts are not hesitant to cancel if we get a few inches of snow or more. (In 2019-2020, they’ve had a larger-than-normal number of snow days in the first half of the year, and so we’re seeing some hesitation to cancel school because they don’t want to add extra days to the end of the school year. They’ve still ended up cancelling, but aren’t as quick to make the call which has caused some frustration.)
Do I need a snow plow/snow blower/tractor?
If you have a long driveway, and the odds are high that you’ll have a driveway that’s much longer than a typical suburbia driveway, you will probably find some sort of mechanized snow removal vehicle nice to have some years, particularly if your driveway is shaded and you don’t get any help from the sun.
A lot of Black Forest homeowners use an ATV with a snowplow on the front, which seems like a good excuse to buy an ATV. 😉
You’ll need to shovel unless you want a seasonal ice rink
If you have a steep driveway, you will want to be sure to shovel it before it gets driven over and packed down with ice, especially if it is shaded.
Or, if your driveway or patio is in the shade all winter, you will want to keep it shoveled – it’s not uncommon to have a seasonal ice rink in shady spots when we’ve gotten a lot of snow. A client of ours purchased a home in December and the previous owners had not stayed on top of shoveling their north-facing driveway, so now our client is stuck with an ice rink in front of their garage for probably the rest of the winter.
Some winters are warm and dry enough that it’s not an issue, but other years, once you get behind on shoveling you may not be able to catch up. On the other hand, if your driveway is in the sun, it will probably shovel itself once the sun comes out!
Watch out for snow drifts & ice dams
On the edges of Black Forest where there are fewer trees, the wind can build up some pretty incredible drifts, and depending on how your house, garage, and driveway are situated, you may have some rather inconvenient drifts form during big storms. Again, we don’t get enough snow that it’s going to trap you in your house, but it is something to be aware of from a maintenance standpoint.
Another issue that can occur anywhere that receives a fair amount of snow is ice dams forming along roof lines, potentially causing moisture back up and penetrate the roof (yes, even with ice shield underlayment). We had this happen in a minor way on a north facing roof valley once, so we put up a heat cable in that area, and we just plug it in when we get a good amount of snow. Not a big deal, just something to be aware of.
(Heat cable is something you’ll often see along roof lines in mountain towns, but it’s quite uncommon in the Black Forest/Colorado Springs area – we just don’t get enough snow to need it.)
Black Forest has winter, but it’s not that big of a deal
Overall, I’d say that winters in Black Forest aren’t that big of a deal, particularly if you’re already used to a Colorado Springs winter. Kick it up just a little notch from a normal winter in Colorado Springs, and that’s Black Forest. (Coming from, say, Florida – yes, it will be an adjustment!)
You’ll probably want to consider an AWD/4WD vehicle next time you’re in the market for a vehicle, and depending on your property, you might want to think about some sort of device for snowplowing – just keep in mind that some years you probably won’t break out your snowblower more than a few times unless you really like snowblowing!
If you’re considering a move to Black Forest, Colorado, we’d love to show you homes in the area and talk about what it’s like to live in the forest! Give Jeremy a call at 719-231-9043 or contact us here.
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