DENVER (CBS4) – The storm that hit during the first five days of December 1913 is still the biggest snowstorm ever recorded in Denver, since we started keeping weather data in 1871.
Light snow started falling on Dec. 1 and continued on Dec. 2. After a brief break on Dec. 3, the snow began to fall once again. The second round of snow fell with fury, piling up several feet across much of the area.
“The snow was very different than what we get in December. It was wet, it was heavy, but it wasn’t very cold,” B. Erin Cole, Assistant State Historian with History Colorado told CBS Denver.
The weight of the snow collapsed a countless number of structures, leading to several changes in how we build along the Front Range.
The heavy, wet snow brought life to a screeching halt, including the nearly 200 miles of Denver’s street car system.
It took hundreds of men to dig the city out. But some people managed to maintain their sense of humor, and posted signs reading”This pile of snow free to day help yourself plenty in stock,” “Keep Off the Grass,” and “It’s a Privilige [sic] To Live in Colorado.”
As the storm wrapped up, people poured into the streets to start the process of cleaning up, but they also made time for some fun.
“In Denver, especially in the Capital Hill District and around the State Capitol, people organized skiing parties,” said Cole.
One of those people having some fun and teaching others how to ski was Karl Howelsen, a ski salesman from Norway. Howelsen split his time between Denver and Routt County, where he helped organize the first-ever winter carnival in Steamboat Springs in February 1914. Thanks to Howelsen and his passion for teaching others how to ski during the 1913 blizzard, he and the infamous storm are credited with helping get the ski industry started in Colorado.
As you’d expect, areas at higher elevations got even more snow — with Georgetown recording a whopping 86 inches.
Fort Collins got nearly three feet of snow and Colorado Springs got just over two feet.