Ute Trail may re-open by early Nov. | AspenTimes.com

Ute Trail may re-open by early Nov.

The popular Ute Trail, which has been closed since early September because of safety issues related to rockfall on the east side of Aspen Mountain, could be open by early November, a county official said Thursday.

A contractor specializing in rockfall has determined that the remaining portion of Ute Rock — which is now precariously balanced after a lightning strike dislodged the rest of it last month — can be broken up into smaller pieces and rolled down the steep slope, said G.R. Fielding, Pitkin County engineer.

That was the Pitkin County board of commissioners’ preference earlier this month, though at the time Fielding wasn’t sure if it was possible. The other option would have been to cover the 3.5 cubic yards of remaining rock — which weighs thousands of pounds — with wire mesh and secure it to the mountain.

The plan is to drill holes in the rock, place explosives inside and cover the rock with a blanket before detonating the explosives, Fielding said. After that, the contractor would send the smaller pieces tumbling down toward Ute Avenue at the base of the mountain, he said.

The entire process likely will take three to four days, he said.

Fielding said he’s working on finalizing a contract for the work, which he hoped would be completed by Monday. The contractor would likely begin work on the project a day or two after the contract is signed, he said.

Earlier this month, commissioners approved spending $35,000 on the project.

The lightning strike that hit Ute Rock occurred during a thunderstorm in early-to-mid September and sent large boulders tumbling down onto Ute Avenue. One rock punched a hole in the street, a city official has said.

City of Aspen officials closed the trail soon after — the trailhead is on city property — because of safety concerns, and it has remained closed ever since. The county has had to deal with the problem because it owns the mining claim at the top where Ute Rock is located. In between is mostly U.S. Forest Service land.


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