I-70 closure forcing some to take long way to Aspen | AspenTimes.com

I-70 closure forcing some to take long way to Aspen

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Deliveries are late and travelers are scratching their heads, but the closure of Interstate 70 in Glenwood Canyon hasn’t put a discernible dent into life in Aspen.

The rock slide that has cut off the easiest access to much of the outside world, including two airports that see use by Aspen-bound travelers – Denver and Eagle – hasn’t hindered guests with ski vacations on the books, according to local resort officials.

More than half of the winter visitors to Aspen/Snowmass fly directly in and out of Aspen and are unaffected by the closure, according to the Aspen Skiing Co., which put out an e-mail blast Tuesday to outline the variety of travel options available to guests and has set up a website link to advise travelers at http://www.aspensnowmass.com/travelinfo/options.cfm.

“The number one phone call we received yesterday (Monday) was, how do we get there?” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a local reservations agency. Tomcich said he hadn’t heard any reports of cancellations.

There are plenty of airline seats between Aspen and Denver, Tomcich added, with fares as low as $194 each way.

The drive between Aspen and Denver, normally close to four hours, currently requires a seven-and-a-half hour tour of northwest Colorado, taking travelers through Kremmling, Hayden, Craig, Meeker and Rifle. Anyone flying into the Eagle County Airport also faces the lengthy detour until the interstate reopens.

Many guests at The Silvertree Hotel in Snowmass Village fly into either Denver or Eagle, according to John Quigley, senior vice president.

On Monday, four flummoxed guests checked out, then checked back in and stayed another night while they examined their options. By Tuesday, local ground-transportation services had stepped up to capitalize on the situation and guests were working around the roadblock, he said.

Colorado Mountain Express has begun running two scheduled shuttles a day between Aspen and Grand Junction to accommodate travelers flying in and out of that airport, and operating a shuttle between Aspen and Glenwood timed to meet the Amtrak train. Amtrak, running on the opposite side of the Colorado River from the interstate in the canyon, was unaffected by the slide.

The Amtrak fare one way between Glenwood and Denver is $39 and the ride takes six-plus hours, Tomcich said.

In addition, CME is driving the detour between Glenwood and Denver, and Gray Line, another ground-transport service, on Tuesday unveiled the Gray Line I-70 Rockslide Shuttle schedule, with service to Denver and Eagle.

Some airline travelers are managing to switch their destination to Grand Junction, Montrose or Hayden – all shorter drives than the one from Eagle or Denver at present, Tomcich said.

“For the most part, the airlines are being flexible,” he said.

For those who must make the drive, though, the reopening of at least one lane in each direction on I-70 will come as a welcome relief from the 200-mile detour that is currently their only option.

Aspen’s downtown alleyways were crowded Tuesday afternoon with delivery trucks that would normally be in and out before noon. The rock slide was the topic of discussion as scurrying delivery men made the rounds.

“I’ve been stuck here since Sunday,” said Bill Hall, a delivery worker with U.S. Foodservice in Englewood on the Front Range. Hall is staying at a motel in Glenwood and assisting with deliveries up and down the Roaring Fork Valley once the trucks arrive.

On Tuesday, driver Tom Ford picked Hall up in Glenwood after the long trip from Denver and the duo bustled to get food supplies unloaded and delivered to restaurants.

Norm Hays, a delivery driver for Italco Food Products, called Monday to book a room in Glenwood, before he left Denver at 2 a.m. Tuesday.

“It forces me to spend a night up here when I would normally go home,” he said.

Hays said he typically leaves at 2 a.m. for the twice-a-week trip to Aspen, but instead of reaching Glenwood by 5 a.m., he pulled into the lower end of the valley at 8 a.m.

Still, he was philosophical about the new wrinkle in his routine.

“Things happen,” Hays said. “The strength of a person shows in how they deal with the situation.”

In Glenwood, hotels may be enjoying extra bookings from people in Hays’ situation, but they’re not getting the key drive-by traffic on Interstate 70, said one motel operator.


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