Blizzard hampers holiday travel to Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Blizzard hampers holiday travel to Aspen

Abigail Eagye

Aspen, CO Colorado

Holiday travelers headed to Aspen Wednesday came up against canceled flights and treacherous highways.

“We are facing a near complete shut-down of the primary transportation link into this resort just prior to our busiest week of the year with no back-up alternatives even physically possible at this point,” Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, announced in an afternoon press release.

Blizzard conditions forced United Airlines, Aspen’s main carrier, to cancel all remaining flights into Denver as of Wednesday afternoon, Tomcich said, and all 13 of United’s scheduled flights between Aspen and Denver also were canceled. United canceled its six flights between Denver and Eagle, as well.

Tomcich reported 3/4-mile visibility at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport Wednesday afternoon, which is below the 2-mile minimum required for landing. That forced flights from Salt Lake City and Chicago, already airborne, to be diverted to Grand Junction.

Visibility at the Eagle County Airport was more than 10 miles, allowing all but the canceled incoming flights from Denver to land.

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Tomcich also reported that weather in Grand Junction was “fine,” but “the reality is there are no more available seats on any flights into either airport at this point until Sunday at the earliest.”

Today and tomorrow, United is waiving standard change fees and other regulations for people flying to or from Denver for all tickets purchased by Dec. 19. All changes must be made by midnight of the original travel date. For more information, call 1-800-UNITED-1 or a travel agency.

Tomcich said a number of Aspen hotels and lodges are also allowing guests to move their dates, depending on availability of rooms. He cautioned the local hotels to “be prepared for a deluge of such inquiries … along with a lot of no-shows tonight.”

The storm dumped snow in the southwestern mountains of Colorado before moving into the Front Range and eastern plains. Snow fell steadily in Aspen/Snowmass Tuesday and Wednesday, but not in epic quantities. Local ski mountains were reporting 6 to 7 inches of new snow Wednesday afternoon.

Gov. Bill Owens declared a state of emergency in Colorado, as the snowstorm forced Denver’s biggest airlines to cancel some 800 flights and the state’s two major highways to close between Denver and the Kansas and New Mexico borders. Owens activated the National Guard to rescue stranded motorists, if necessary.