Storm hits Aspen with fluff; Independence Pass closed
October 29, 2009
ASPEN – Though Aspen had seen only modest snowfall by Thursday afternoon from the winter storm that swept into Colorado this week, the Colorado Department of Transportation announced that Highway 82 over Independence Pass is now closed for the winter.
CDOT closed the pass on Tuesday afternoon, in advance of the approaching storm, intending to reopen it if weather conditions permitted. CDOT cited drifting snow, low visibility and the potential for additional snow in its decision to simply leave the route closed.
The 12,095-foot pass was scheduled to close for the winter on Nov. 6 at 2 p.m., regardless of the weather. It typically reopens in May for the Memorial Day weekend.
While Aspenites cleaned a light covering of fluff from their windshields and sidewalks Thursday, the Front Range began digging out from a dumping that closed schools and offices, and forced flight cancellations and delays at Denver International Airport. A handful of Frontier and United flights in and out of Aspen were canceled Thursday – the result of the weather in Denver.
The eastern half of Interstate 70 in Colorado was closed Thursday because of blowing snow and in northern Colorado, Interstate 25 from Fort Collins to the Wyoming line was also closed because of closures in Wyoming.
The Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office reported few troubles by midday Thursday as a result of the wintery weather. One area woman was unhurt when her vehicle dropped down an embankment off a slick Watson Divide Road and lodged against a fence at about 10:30 a.m.
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Aspen firefighters helped get her out of the vehicle, said Deputy Alex Burchetta.
Overall, drivers were judiciously adjusting to the weather during the morning commute, he said.
The top of the Snowmass Ski Area had collected about 9 inches by Thursday afternoon – less than suburban Denverites were shoveling off their driveways. Snowmass and Aspen Mountain are scheduled to open Nov. 26, but the Aspen Skiing Co. took advantage of the cold temperatures to fire its snowmaking guns on Aspen Mountain Wednesday night.
“It definitely was a non-ski resort storm,” said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. “You know, the message is out that Colorado has snow. That’s the good news.”
Among ski resorts that are open, Arapahoe Basin reported six inches of new snow Thursday morning, from the prior 48-hour period. Loveland picked up 7 inches during the same period.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center won’t begin forecasting until November, but the CAIC said Thursday that five people had reported triggering slides in the backcountry and that at least one individual had been swept downhill, though no serious injuries were reported.
Center director Ethan Greene said that, while the early snow may look inviting, backcountry users should be careful not to expose themselves to unnecessary risks.
Skiers and climbers have reported triggering three slides in Rocky Mountain National Park. Skiers also reported triggering slides on Independence, Loveland and Jones passes.
Aspen’s Friday forecast day calls for a continued chance of snow, with highs of 25 to 35 and northwest winds of 10 to 15 mph in the afternoon. Lows Friday night of 10 to 20 are expected, according to the National Weather Service. Partly sunny skies and highs of 35 to 45 are forecast on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.