Aspen gate stops Independence Pass drivers after closure |

Aspen gate stops Independence Pass drivers after closure

Two cars were stranded on the wrong side of Aspen’s winter closure gate early Monday afternoon after the gate on the Twin Lakes side apparently closed late, officials said Tuesday.

A Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson said the decision to close the two gates was made about 7:45 a.m. Monday after crews determined they couldn’t keep up with the snowfall. However, the gate closure message apparently didn’t get through to the other side in time.

The two cars arrived at Aspen’s winter closure gate before noon to find it locked, said Alex Burchetta, chief deputy of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The drivers of the cars were able to get a ride into town and were taken to the Sheriff’s Office, he said.

Detective Bruce Benjamin said he then gave the drivers a ride back up to their cars, opened the gate and let them through.

“I believe they were just late in closing the Twin Lakes side,” Benjamin said.

Lisa Schwantes, a CDOT spokesperson, said Tuesday she hadn’t heard about the two cars getting through or a late gate closing on the Lake County side of the Pass.

“I thought we’d done a sweep,” she said. “We always do that after we close the gates.”

Monday’s closing was the earliest in 10 years. CDOT officials closed the Pass on Oct. 27 in 2009 in advance of a storm and kept it closed for the rest of the winter. The earliest in recent memory was in 2006, when CDOT briefly closed the Pass for a snowstorm in September, then closed it for good Oct. 20.

Generally the Pass closes around the first week of November, though it has been known to remain open through mid-November in drier years. Once it is closed for the winter, the only way out of Aspen without getting on a plane is Highway 82 to Glenwood Springs.

Independence Pass, which tops out at 12,095 feet and is the highest paved highway in Colorado, generally opens the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend.