Pass won’t be snowed in, thanks to hard work |

Pass won’t be snowed in, thanks to hard work

It’s been a cold and snowy spring, and most Aspenites were no doubt thrilled to learn yesterday that Independence Pass opened in time for the Memorial Day weekend.

It’s always an uplifting feeling when Aspen turns from a box canyon, hemmed in on three sides by deep snow, to being a stopover along one of Colorado’s most beautiful trans-divide highways.

As an extra bonus, Maroon Creek Road will open as well, enabling locals and visitors to see Maroon Lake in unseasonably wintry conditions.

Opening these roads to the traveling public this year was no small feat, and we congratulate both the Colorado Department of Transportation crews that opened Independence Pass and the people from Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service who managed to clear Maroon Creek Road and the facilities at Maroon Lake.

For those who haven’t read the periodic reports on our mountain snowpack, we’re in the middle of a historic year. CDOT reported this week that the snowpack on the Aspen side of Independence Pass is 361 percent of normal for this time of the year; on the eastern, Twin Lakes flank of the pass, snow depths are a whopping 452 percent of normal.

The staggering amounts of snow prompted CDOT crews to borrow a snowcat that is usually used on Rabbit Ears Pass to help clear the heights of Highway 82. Snow depths on the road itself were up to eight feet; depths alongside the road approached 25 feet.

Having experienced one of the snowiest Aprils on record and the lingering cold of this May, most Aspenites wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that the crews needed an extra week to make Independence Pass safe for travel. But the crews worked extra-long days to meet the Memorial Day goal, and eager sightseers and skiers are already reaping the benefits.

So here’s an enthusiastic thank you to CDOT, Pitkin County and the Forest Service for helping to make this a special Memorial Day weekend.

Drive safely, everyone.

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