Snow snarls Aspen traffic, stops buses |

Snow snarls Aspen traffic, stops buses

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Traffic slows to a crawl Friday morning as drivers negotiate a snow­clogged Main Street in Aspen. A passing winter storm deposited over a foot of wet, heavy snow, causing traffic accidents and stranded buses. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

ASPEN ” Aspen and the upper Roaring Fork Valley were swamped by snow Friday morning, worsening the usual rush-hour traffic jams and causing the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority to shut down its Aspen routes for a short time.

The buses were rolling within about half an hour, however, and the storm caused only a minor amount of delays and cancellations at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport.

Weather reports for the weekend and early next week were mixed, with some calling for days of snow and others predicting clearing and warming trends with the possibility of rain on Sunday.

A fast-moving storm moved in Thursday night and dumped 21 inches of snow at Snowmass and Aspen Mountain during a 48-hour period, with the heaviest snows starting in the early hours of Friday morning and lasting until about noon.

The heavy, wet snow and near-freezing temperatures left a sheen of ice on local roads for a good part of the morning on Friday, and snow fell intermittently through the rest of the day.

Buses were getting stuck in unlikely spots. One failed to negotiate the S-curves where Highway 82 enters Aspen from the west and got hung up for a short time, and a group of five buses that were unable to leave the Rubey Park bus terminal on Durant Avenue early Friday, according to one bus driver.

RFTA shut down all of its Aspen in-town and skier shuttle routes at about 11 a.m. due to slick road surfaces, but began putting buses back into service on the routes about a half-hour later, according to Stan Redfern, RFTA transportation supervisor. Redfern reported that this was the first time RFTA had shut down routes in a number of years.

“It’s an absolute and utter mess, is all I can say,” Redfern said at about noon on Friday.

Police, meanwhile, were responding to minor accidents and vehicles blocking traffic throughout the day.

Snowmass Village streets remained in fairly good shape on Friday, Redfern said, and valley bus operations on the Highway 82 corridor were not affected by the shutdown.

At the airport, according to Francey Jesson, assistant director of aviation operations, nearly a foot of snow was cleared from the runways in time for operations to begin at roughly 7:50 a.m. on Friday, which was followed by a day of minor delays and isolated cancellations.

“We had a few canceled flights , but for the most part things have been running pretty smoothly,” she said, describing the day as “not too bad, considering all the snow we got.”

She said the airport’s weather reports were projecting an 80 percent chance of an additional inch of snow for the rest of Friday, and were calling for snow off and on until March 17 or 18.

“We’re going to plan for significantly more than what they’re saying,” she said, adding that across the U.S. airports and airlines were girding for a period of somewhat difficult operations.

“We’re expecting it’s going to be a rough weekend,” she concluded.

Other weather reports, however, were calling for the snow to end and skies to clear somewhat on Saturday, followed by possible rain on Sunday and clearing in the early part of next week.


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