Snow slows commute, boosts Aspen ski base

Chadwick Bowman
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado

ASPEN – Snowfall from Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning was the culprit for a few minor accidents on local roads and prompted the closure of Independence Pass outside of Aspen until next spring.

Law enforcement officials said motorists making their morning commute to Aspen were slowed by the icy roads, but as the temperatures dropped during the afternoon, Highway 82 turned more dangerous.

A seven-car accident before 3 p.m. forced the closure of Highway 82’s westbound lane near mile marker 28 in Snowmass Canyon. Traffic was temporarily diverted to Lower River Road as a result of the accident, which resulted in minor injuries to three people. The canyon reopened shortly after 5 p.m.

Before that mishap, traffic problems were minimal, according to both the Aspen Police Department and Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

“[The number of accidents] were surprisingly low,” said police spokeswoman Blair Weyer. “We had one non-injury accident. … But folks have been pretty conscious and leaving plenty of space between them and other drivers.”

The sheriff’s office reported four weather-related accidents during the morning commute. The most serious was a vehicle turned on its side near Snowmass Creek Road and Highway 82.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Alex Burchetta said that for the most part, deputies were busy helping motorists get back on the road after losing control and sliding off.

Both police and the sheriff’s office had no other weather-related damages to report. There were no tree branches down and no power outages.

Meanwhile, the recent surge of winter weather had forced the Colorado Department of Transportation to close Independence Pass temporarily Tuesday, six days before its scheduled Nov. 7 closure date. On Wednesday, CDOT announced that the popular route would not reopen until next spring because of road conditions and the forecast for more snow Friday.

The weather was good news for snow lovers: Aspen Skiing Co. reported that Aspen Mountain and Highlands saw 8 inches of new snow. The top of Snowmass received another 12.5 inches, pushing its base up to 22 inches.

Aspen-Pitkin County Airport aviation director Jim Elwood said the one flight canceled Wednesday was a morning arrival out of Denver International Airport due to the snow.

Both the Aspen School District and Roaring Fork School District ran on regular schedules Wednesday morning.