Road to Maroon Bells opens Friday; Independence Pass gets closer as opening remains on hold |

Road to Maroon Bells opens Friday; Independence Pass gets closer as opening remains on hold

Maroon Creek Road will open this morning all the way to the Maroon Bells just in time for the holiday weekend, a Pitkin County official said Thursday.

Meanwhile, state road crews have cleared at least one lane up and over Independence Pass from both sides, though the exact date the Pass will open has not yet been set, Lisa Schwantes, Colorado Department of Transportation spokeswoman, said Thursday.

“They’ve made significant progress with actually clearing the road,” she said. “They’ve punched a hole through entirely, though some spots are needing to be widened to two lanes.”

CDOT is planning to conduct helicopter-based avalanche mitigation today from the Twin Lakes side of Highway 82, Schwantes said. The date the road opens will depend on how much snow comes down and has to be removed from the highway, she said.

In addition, crews must repair guardrails and possibly portions of the road surface before it opens, Schwantes said. And, of course, there’s Mother Nature.

“The weather has been very, very challenging,” she said. “There’s another wave of weather coming through (early next week).”

The road will be closed at least another week, Schwantes said.

After clearing three significant avalanche slides from Maroon Creek Road this year, Pitkin County road crews will have the road to the Maroon Bells open this morning in time for the Memorial Day Weekend, said Brian Pettet, county public works director.

Services at the Bells, however, won’t be available for more than a week, said Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.

U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and the welcome station will be open and fully staffed June 3, when the $10 per vehicle fee goes into effect, she said. The bathrooms, amphitheater and other structures at the Bells made it through the winter unscathed, she said.

Roaring Fork Transportation Authority buses will begin service to the Bells on June 15, Grail said. The buses, which leave from Aspen Highlands, are the only way to the Bells from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer season.

Until then, it’s first-come, first-serve until the parking spaces fill up, Grail said.

Other roads in the area that suffered avalanches or excessive snowpack are beginning to come back into service.

County road crews have been able to clear Castle Creek Road all the way to the Pearl Pass Road, Pettet said. However, Coal Creek Road near Redstone is down to one lane for a 30-foot section because a sizable chunk collapsed into Coal Creek about three weeks ago, he said.

The road bed became completely saturated and simply gave way, Pettet said. The road remains passable with decent sightlines, he said.

Roads in the White River National Forest opened Tuesday, though many remain buried under snow and avalanche debris, according to a Forest Service news release.

“Crews have been assessing snowline and many roads that are typically clear by May 21 remain inaccessible due to snowpack, debris and muddy conditions,” the release states. “Please respect gates and closed areas and find alternative locations to recreate to allow muddy roads and trails time to dry out.”

Contact local ranger stations for local road conditions.