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Colorado Airports Score Big in National Award for Excellence in Winter Operations

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Denver International Airport, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, Centennial Airport Recognized As Having the Best Snow Operations in the Business

DENVER – April 29, 2016 – Three Colorado airports – Denver International Airport (DEN), Aspen/Pitkin County Airport (ASE) and Centennial Airport (APA) – have each been recognized with a prestigious national award for excellence in maintaining airport operations during challenging winter conditions.

The Balchen/Post award, which for 40 years has recognized airports for outstanding snow and ice removal teams that result in safe operations, was awarded by the Northeast Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) at the annual International Aviation Snow Symposium on April 27.

The awards are based on a wide range of criteria for work during the 2015-2016 snow season, including: snow and ice control plans; equipment readiness; personnel training; overall safety awareness; timely communication with airlines, the public and other airport stakeholders; storm cleanup; and the effectiveness of snow and ice control plans on runways and other surfaces.

DEN was named the winner in the category of large commercial airports with more than 200,000 operations annually. At 53 square miles, DEN is the nation’s largest commercial airport with snow removal operations that include six runways, 300 lane miles of roads (the distance from Denver to the Utah border) and 30 acres of parking lots with more than 40,000 parking spaces (more than 23 football fields). DEN has about 500 trained snow removal personnel who work in nine teams, 250 pieces of airside snow removal equipment, and 110 pieces of snow removal equipment for landside roads and parking lots. DEN also posts a “snowman” in the Federal Aviation Administration control tower to provide a single point of contact and coordination between the airport and controllers. From the 2010 to 2015 snow seasons, DEN received an average of 50.6 inches of snow each season. As of April 28, DEN has received a total of 69.3 inches of snow this season (and it’s snowing today!).

“Keeping the country’s largest airport open and operating can be a major challenge, especially during Colorado’s snowy winter months,” said Denver International Airport CEO Kim Day. “We are fortunate to have dedicated and talented snow teams who love the wintry battle. Thanks to their planning, execution and dedication, DEN maintains a safe and efficient airfield and keeps aircraft and travelers moving in the harshest of conditions.”

Additionally, Aspen/Pitkin County Airport was named the winner among small commercial airports with fewer than 100,000 operations annually. Aspen/Pitkin County Airport has a seasonal peak of 40 daily flights to nearly every major hub west of Atlanta and is one of the busiest corporate jet airports during the winter and summer holidays. The airport has 39 trained snow-removal employees operating 24 pieces of specialized airside and landside equipment. Aspen receives an average of 150 inches of snow annually, and is the closest airport to a ski slope in all of North America.

“We have a lean and very responsive team of highly dedicated employees – it’s so exciting for them to be recognized nationally by their peers,” said John Kinney, airport director for Aspen/Pitkin County. “Also, having three Colorado airports receive this award speaks well to our state’s systems approach to keeping these public utilities – airports – safe and open during snow events. We exchange nearly half a million passengers between DEN, Centennial and Aspen annually. They are part of our success in Aspen as well.”

Centennial Airport, located in Englewood, Colo., was the winner in the large general aviation airport category. With more than 300,000 operations each year, Centennial Airport is the second busiest general aviation airport in the nation, and a 14-time winner of the Balchen/Post award (11 top awards, 3 honorable mentions); more than any other airport since the inception of the award. Centennial Airport typically does not close runways for plowing, but rather, plows in-between take-offs and landings. The airport recently installed a new GPS-based vehicle tracking system, adding an extra layer of safety for plow and blower drivers, especially when weather conditions diminish visibility.

“With higher than average snowfall, this has been a particularly challenging winter for Centennial Airport,” said assistant airport director Lorie Hinton. “A great deal of the credit for this award goes to our dedicated maintenance and operations personnel who commit to some pretty long hours, ensuring the airport stays open for everyone—including our many critical medevac operations. Each time we see an aircraft depart or land during a storm, we feel a great sense of pride knowing we helped make that possible.”

Additionally, the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base (SAFB), located in Colorado Springs, Colo., received the Balchen/Post award for its snow an ice operations.

“Snow and Ice removal operations at SAFB consist primarily of streets and sidewalks supporting space and cyber space operations,” said Lt. Col. Nate Clemmer, Base Civil Engineer. “Schriever AFB winning the Balchen/Post award is unique since we do not have a runway. But our operation is critical as we support seven operations facilities totaling over 1.1 million square feet that operate 24/7/365 controlling space assets that provide data to the Department of Defense and the world. If the space and cyber operators cannot get to work due to a winter storm, these critical operations could be affected.”


Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $36 billion for the region annually. For more information visit www.FlyDenver.com, check us out on YouTube and Instagram, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Sign up for DEN’s monthly newsletter Nonstop News.


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Denver International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. DEN is the primary economic engine for the state of Colorado, generating more than $36 billion for the region annually. Follow us on socials!