Ride for the Pass is on | AspenTimes.com

Ride for the Pass is on

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

ASPEN ” The exact opening date for Independence Pass remains in doubt, but prospects for Saturday’s Ride for the Pass “are getting better every day,” said Mark Fuller, head of the Independence Pass Foundation that hosts the bike ride every year to raise money.

“I’d say your headline should be, ‘The Ride is on!'” Fuller said, explaining that state highway crews have been patching holes on the route up to the ghost town of Independence and that he has heard no discouraging words.

Meanwhile, Colorado Department of Transportation maintenance crews, on each side of Independence Pass, continue snow removal efforts ” even as snow continues to pile up thanks to periodic snowstorms. The target date to reopen the pass to motorists is May 30, but it could be earlier or later, according to CDOT.

Crews on the east side are working cautiously, with the snow depth now at more than 230 percent of average, after receiving 6 new inches on Wednesday and Tuesday nights.

The snowpack varies on the east side, but it is about 12-15 feet high on the roadway in some areas, according to CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks.

On the west side, Shanks reported, the snowpack has climbed to more than 200 percent of average ” with 12 feet of snow on the roadway ” and work is progressing slowly toward the final switchback.

Working with specialists from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, crews on the east side of the pass conducted avalanche-control work this week and managed to down a surface layer, Shanks reported. But an extended warm weather period is expected to loosen layers underneath, which she said will continue to be a hazard for the crews working on the road.

As far as county roads are concerned, Castle Creek Road from Ashcroft to the bottom of the Pearl Pass Road was scheduled to be opened Friday, according to Pitkin County spokeswoman Pat Bingham.

Maroon Creek Road from T-Lazy 7 to Maroon Lake and the Bells is scheduled for snow removal the week of June 2, Bingham said. Because of the heavy snowfall this year (which is said to have reached 54 feet at the base of the Bells), Pitkin County and the U.S. Forest Service have decided to let the snowpack melt naturally to avoid damage to the road.

Martha Moran of the Forest Service’s Aspen/Sopris Ranger District said other high-altitude forest roads ” such as Gunnison County Road 3 above Marble, leading to the town of Crystal, and the road over Hagerman Pass from Basalt to Leadville ” remain buried in snow and likely will not be open soon.