Independence Pass set to close Friday for winter season

Pass that tops out at 12,095 feet typically opens just before Memorial Day Weekend

Staff reports

Aspen will turn into the town at the end of a cul-de-sac on Friday when the Colorado Department of Transportation closes Highway 82 over Independence Pass for the winter.

CDOT spokeswoman Elise Thatcher said Wednesday morning that the road, which tops out at the 12,095-foot summit, will close for the winter at 7 p.m. Friday. The road typically opens for the summer on the Thursday before Memorial Day Weekend, weather permitting.

This is the latest closure since 2016 when the winter gate about 5 miles east of Aspen closed on Nov. 17. In 2019, the pass had one of its earliest closures when CDOT shut it down for the season on Oct. 28.

This past spring, the pass didn’t open until June 1 because of concerns about too many visitors coming into the area as the state slowly reopened from the pandemic shutdown, which started in March.

“CDOT understands the COVID-19 pandemic has created a unique situation and we support Pitkin County, Lake County, the Independence Pass Foundation and the Forest Service in keeping the communities safe and in control of visitors to these counties,” CDOT said in a statement in May about the 2020 opening. “We will tentatively plan on opening Independence Pass, on Colorado 82, on June 1, but can adjust if these agency partners need us to.”

In 2019, the pass didn’t open until May 31 after the major avalanche cycle in March that sent a number of slides over the pass on either side.