Clear skies and a clear pass, for now |

Clear skies and a clear pass, for now

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Motorists have two more weekends, weather permitting, to enjoy Independence Pass before the gates are closed and locked for the winter.

The Colorado Department of Transportation will close off Highway 82 over the 12,095-foot pass east of Aspen at about midday on Nov. 7. Before the barriers are locked on the Aspen and Twin Lakes sides of the pass, crews make a sweep down both sides to usher out any motorists who are stopped along the route, according to Phillip Anderle, CDOT maintenance and operating supervisor for the Glenwood Springs area.

Last year, crews were forced to conduct two sweeps, the second using a siren and public-address system, to alert a handful of motorists who had hiked away from their cars that they needed to clear out, he said.

Nov. 7 is the traditional closure date, unless winter weather forces CDOT to close the pass early.

“It’s looking good so far,” Anderle said. “Man, what a beautiful fall.”

As a general rule, the agency will close the pass ahead of schedule if it receives 6 inches of snowfall over a 24-hour period, but the type of snow and wind conditions are also a factor, according to Anderle.

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“If the wind starts blowing, it can drift 5 or 6 feet with just a few inches of snow on the top,” he said.

CDOT has already sent plows over the pass on three occasions this fall. The biggest accumulation yet was about 4 inches in a 24-hour period, Anderle said.

It doesn’t take much in the way of snow and ice to make the steep, winding road treacherous for motorists, not to mention snowplow drivers, who perhaps negotiate on the slickest conditions of all. The plows drive over the polished layer of snow created by the plow blade before the sand coming out the back of the truck is applied to the surface, Anderle pointed out.

Once the pass is closed, there’s just one highway in and out of Aspen ? Highway 82 from the west ? until Independence Pass reopens next May.

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