To avoid another disaster like the shutdown last December, airport officials have boosted staffing, gear ? and spending DIA's ground attack

Bring it on.

That seems to be the attitude of Denver International Airport officials about their ability to deal with a major snowstorm this winter.

After being overwhelmed by the blizzard that hit just before Christmas last year, DIA has thoroughly overhauled its snow-removal program to try to avoid a long shutdown of the airport like the 45-hour closure Dec. 20-22.

At a cost of about $6 million a year, DIA has hired contractors who have pre-positioned scores of machines and lined up hundreds of employees for snow removal.

The airport has significantly increased the number of city employees and airport-owned machines that will be used to target runways and taxiways, and de-ice pads and airfield service roads.

If necessary, as many as 45 off-duty employees from DIA's fire and rescue stations will be mobilized to augment snow- removal teams.

The airport has totally reorganized its approach to cleaning snow from ramp areas between and around the concourses where airplanes maneuver to and from the gates.

On a recent tour of the airfield, deputy manager for operations John Kinney said DIA lost the battle to keep the ramps open during the December storm, halting operations.

DIA's old snow plan called for snow to be plowed into high piles down the middle of the ramps and then trucked out. During last year's blizzard, the snow mountains got so big that they impeded the movement of planes.

The airport's new plan calls for positioning large snow melters at central ramp locations, pushing snow on the expansive ramps to the melters and using front-end loaders to dump snow into the melters.

Each of the seven melters DIA expects to use is rated to melt 600 tons of snow an hour. The airport extended storm-water drains to handle the expected torrent.

Airlines still will have the responsibility of pushing snow back from their gates just past the tails of their aircraft so plows can push it to the melters.

DIA expects to spend $31 million on as many as 37 "multi-function" snow-removal machines for the runways and taxiways, but few are expected to be available this winter.

These machines can plow, blow and sweep. DIA plans to rely on a phalanx of these machines to rapidly clear runways and taxiways beginning with the 2008-09 snow season.

This season will be "transitional," Kinney said, with the airport relying on conventional equipment that performs the plowing, blowing and sweeping tasks separately.

Jeffrey Leib: 303-954-1645



Workers nearly tripled

for "airside," "landside"

Denver International Airport's snow crews were overwhelmed last winter by the blizzard that hit just before Christmas. This winter, DIA will mobilize a much larger army of airport employees and contract workers. The comparison in number of total employees per shift:


Includes runways, taxiways, ramps,

de-icing pads and airfield roads.

2006-07 season: 74 employees per shift

2007-08 season: 204 employees per shift


Includes Peña Boulevard from Interstate 70 to the terminal, other roads off the airfield, and all public and employee parking lots and garages.

2006-07 season: 70 employees per shift

2007-08 season: 207 employees per shift

Cost breakdown

Projected 10-year*

cost for DIA's new

snow program:

Equipment: $31 million

Facilities: $9.5 million

Labor: $3.5 million

Contracts: $63.9 million

Total: $107.9 million

* present value of costs over 10 years

Source: Denver International Airport