Icy roads close Aspen highway, lengthen commute | AspenTimes.com

Icy roads close Aspen highway, lengthen commute

Commuters struck in traffic Wednesday afternoon and evening after multiple accidents at the eastern end of Snowmass Canyon closed westbound lanes. Snowmass Village ski boot fitter Jack Rafferty captured this shot of the traffic jam at the approach to the canyon while heading home.

Weather-related car accidents Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning forced the closure of parts of Highway 82 and caused headaches for commuters, police said Wednesday.

An accident between a dump truck and a Jeep at about 9:15 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of the Aspen Business Center and Highway 82 sent three juveniles to Aspen Valley Hospital with unspecified injuries, said Deputy Brad Gibson of the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office.

That crash occurred after the dump truck, heading downvalley, lost control in icy conditions and hit the back of the Jeep, which was waiting to turn left into the Aspen airport, Gibson said. Deputies closed the westbound lanes of Highway 82 for about 45 minutes, while traffic was routed on to the ABC frontage road, he said.

The snowstorm that sat over the Aspen area for much of Tuesday lengthened the evening commute for many drivers.

Pitkin County Deputy Jesse Steindler said he responded to reports of a couple minor accidents in Snowmass Canyon about 5 p.m. Tuesday. By the time he arrived at the east end of the canyon about five minutes later he eventually discovered about 50 cars sliding around a quarter-mile section of the canyon and about 10 separate, relatively minor accidents, he said.

One young woman sustained minor injuries, though she declined an ambulance, Steindler said. No other injuries were reported.

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Traffic was diverted on to Gerbaz Way and Lower River Road and back to Highway 82 at the Snowmass Conoco, he said. That caused long delays, and deputies worked to open one lane about an hour later to try and untangle the traffic jam, Steindler said.

The "perfect storm" of heavy, rush-hour traffic, freezing temperatures, blinding snow and "people driving way too fast" led to the crashes and delays, he said.

"That's a huge problem area there," Steindler said, noting that black ice frequently forms on the curve at the entrance to shady Snowmass Canyon that can throw drivers.

One commuter told The Aspen Times she boarded a bus home to Basalt on Tuesday about 5:10 p.m. and didn't arrive in Basalt until 7:45 p.m.

jauslander@aspentimes.com