Independence Pass closes for the season, earliest in nine years
The snowstorm that blew in Sunday night and Monday morning was enough of a winter blast to close Independence Pass for the season on the earliest date in nine years, a spokesperson said.
“It was getting very difficult for our crews to keep up with the amount of snowfall on the Pass,” said Lisa Schwantes, spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation. “Once that happens … it’s safer to just call it so we closed it for the season.”
And while other sources said they’d heard CDOT might reassess the closure later in the week and open it again before winter shuts it for good until Memorial Day, Schwantes said it’s possible but unlikely.
“If we have a dry spell and the snow melts on its own and we anticipate a long dry spell, we possibly could open it,” she said. “But at this point we’re not going to send crews in to clear the snow any longer.”
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The decision to close the Pass on the Aspen and Twin Lakes sides was made about 7:45 a.m. Monday. It’s the earliest closing since at least 2011, which was the limit of CDOT’s available records Monday, she said.
Independence Pass, which is 12,095 high and the highest paved highway in Colorado, generally closes in early-to-mid-November and reopens the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend. It closed Nov. 5 last year, Schwantes said.
Karin Teague, executive director of the Independence Pass Foundation, said Monday she heard CDOT will reassess the closing once the latest spate of winter weather clears out mid-week. Alex Burchetta, chief deputy of operations for the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, said Monday he heard the same thing.
Schwantes, however, said snow drifts up to 5 feet high can form on the Pass and will not be removed anymore this winter.
Snow and low temperatures are expected in the Aspen area Tuesday and Wednesday. Temperatures were expected to rise into the upper 40s and possibly low 50s by late week, according to weather forecasts.
Pitkin County will continue to try and keep Maroon Creek and Castle Creek roads open until closer to the historical closing date of Nov. 15, said Scott Mattice, the county’s road and bridge manager. County crews were able to plow Maroon Creek to the Maroon Bells parking lot Monday and Castle Creek to Ashcroft, he said. “With temperatures up to the 50s late this week, it’s easier to keep them open until closer to the Nov. 15th date,” Mattice said.
The county will post electronic sign boards on at the Maroon Creek and Castle Creek closure gates next week that will warn of the Nov. 15 closing date unless further snow falls, he said.
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Wayne Hall took a job as an air traffic controller at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport in 2003 thinking he would stay for a short time. Instead he stayed for nearly 17 years and was promoted up to the position of air traffic manager. He reflected on the experience upon retirement.