Despite the mild weather, pass will close on Nov. 7 | AspenTimes.com
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Despite the mild weather, pass will close on Nov. 7

Janet Urquhart

Independence Pass will remain open to motorists until Nov. 7, weather permitting, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Snow typically closes the popular shortcut for travel between Aspen and Denver sometime in October. But continued mild weather will keep the 12,095-foot pass open until its scheduled closure, said Phillip Anderle, CDOT’s maintenance and operations supervisor in Glenwood Springs.

“Until Mother Nature tells us differently, we’re planning on our annual seasonal closure on November seventh,” he said.

CDOT closed the pass on the same date last year despite continued mild weather. Anderle said he took some heat for locking the gates before the snow flew in any appreciable amount.

“I got a lot of havoc for that closure,” he said, “but I’ve got a lot of work to do that I can either do now or in the springtime.”

Once the pass is closed, crews will tackle maintenance work that is more easily accomplished when the narrow, steep and winding road is closed to traffic. The pass climbs over the Continental Divide, east of Aspen.

Although the pass could sometimes be kept open until later into the fall, operating large snowplows on the upper reaches of the pass where drop-offs are steep is dangerous for CDOT crews, Anderle said. In addition, the road doesn’t receive the kind of regular plowing that would keep it safe for motorists, he said.

“If somebody got up there in the middle of the night in a freak snowstorm, like we can have, they could be stranded for some time,” he said.

Only the upper gate on the Aspen side – at Lincoln Creek – will close Nov. 7, according to Anderle. He plans to keep the lower gate open until sometime on Nov. 11 to accommodate hunters who are camped along the lower stretches of the road. The third gun season for hunters is Nov. 4-11. The final season is Nov. 11-15.

The pass typically reopens in May.


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