Vice President Mondale, traveling West to learn about its problems, today encountered one of its sternest realities - winter. He was unable to visit two coal mining boom towns because snow grounded the plane and helicopters he planned to use.

Instead of seeing for himself the communities of Craig and Hayden where explosive growth has created economic and social problems. Mondale held a hearing in this community's modern city hall that was attended by 500 western Coloradans.

The mood of the meeting was summed up by Barbara Chambliss, of Grand Junction, a member of the Colorado Land Use Commission. After urging that the federal government proceed carefully in energy development and require industries to pay their fair share of transportation costs, Chambliss said:

"Vice President Mondale, I feel like I'm in a recurring event that took place when I was a child in Denver. My family and I can safely bike around town. We drive a mile and a half to buy raw from a local farmer. We're not afraid to use the parks. When we drive, we're not on freeways but on urban streets with houses, poeple, gardens. Our checks are accepted everywhere . . . How may other people in the United States desire a similar quality of life but are unable to enjoy it because of the rapid growth of their community?

"Doyle Jackson, the past mayor of Craig, expressed it best when he said, 'The highest toll extracted from boom towns is the literal destruction of acommunity which has, in the past, sustained and nurtual its poeple. The decline in the quality of life has stolen a community from its poeple.'"

Mondale praised Chambiliss for a "gifted and moving statement" and won applause from the audience here for repeated statements that the need for energy development should be carefully balanced with enviromental considerations.

In his five-day, seven-state "listen and learn" Western swing, the Vice President has repeatdly sought to assure Westerners who are worried about the future of water supplies that the federal government will "never pre-empt or interfere with" state and private water rights.

Mondale was loudly applauded by the Utah state legislature when he made this comment in a speech Tuesday night and repeated it again today at Grand Junction.

Former Colorado Gov. John Vanderhoof responded: "That's good news, sir."

Mondale struck conservative stances during the Utah leg of his Western visit, praising the Mormon Church for its contridution to the "moral fiber" of the United States and saying that perservation of the family was a prime social goal for the nation.

He also paid a five-minute courtesy call on Mormon president Spencer Kimball.

Though Mondale's mission supposedly is to defuse some of the hostility to the Carter adminstration that has accumulated in the West, all of the Vice President's encounters so far have been friendly ones.

He was met in front of the city hall here by 20 farmers who had brought their tractors to Grand Junction in support of th farm strike. Mondale walked across the street to greet them and to recite a litany of what he said were Carter administration achievements in agricultural policy. He made no mention of the farm strike, but was thanked by menbers of the group for showing interest in their problems.