Aspen puts on winter coat
Ryan Summerlin October 26, 2012
ASPEN – A thin coat of winter white covered Aspen on Thursday morning, frosting the trees and forcing residents to dig out their windshield scrapers.
Snow started falling Wednesday evening, and by morning, an inch or two sparkled in the sun. It was the first real snow of the season – the kind that sticks. On the slopes of Aspen Mountain, where World Cup racing is scheduled in just four weeks, snow guns were blasting away.
Late in the afternoon, Aspen Skiing Co. reported more than 8 inches of new snow at the top of the ski areas.
Aspenites tend to get giddy with the first snowfall, and Skico public relations manager Meredith McKee said the people in her office were no exception.
“We got so excited. It’s like the first time we’ve ever seen snow,” she said.
The weather created a few travel headaches, though, including several minor mishaps on Highway 82 in Snowmass Canyon on Thursday morning and flight delays and cancellations at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.
One commercial flight out of Denver on Wednesday evening was delayed, and one was canceled. The first flight out of Aspen on Thursday was canceled, as the necessary jet had not arrived the prior evening, and the second flight out departed behind schedule. As snow squalls whipped up Thursday afternoon, two more flights out of Denver were canceled, and more snow was expected Thursday night.
Icy pavement in the canyon resulted in a few one-car accidents early Thursday, according to Michael Buglione, of the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. There were problems in both directions.
“The roads were slick in the canyon. We had motorists losing it on the ice,” he said. “The first few icy mornings are usually a reminder to people to get the snow tires on, keep their distance and drive a little slow.”
Once the crashes were cleared, authorities used pace cars to slow down commuters, Buglione said.
On Independence Pass southeast of town, it wasn’t snow but a tractor-trailer that wound up closing the highway Thursday morning.
The Colorado Department of Transportation announced Wednesday afternoon that a crew with four to six trucks would be working around the clock to keep Highway 82 on the pass open because significant accumulations weren’t expected.
However, a disabled semi on the Lake County side of the summit blocked the westbound lane around 8 a.m. Thursday, according to CDOT, and the highway was later closed in both directions at the accident site while tow crews worked to get the truck out of the way. The highway reopened at about 1:30 p.m.
Tractor-trailers regularly cause problems on the narrow pass. Vehicles longer than 35 feet aren’t permitted there, but truck drivers ignore the closure in order to use it as a shortcut.
The pass is scheduled to remain open until Nov. 7 unless wintry weather forces an earlier closure. Last fall, CDOT closed the pass Nov. 1 in advance of an approaching winter storm and it did not reopen.
Aspen’s forecast heading into the weekend calls for drier and slightly warmer weather with a mix of clouds and sun and highs in the 40s.