Weather dictates whether Independence Pass is open | AspenTimes.com

Weather dictates whether Independence Pass is open

Janet Urquhart
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

Janet Urquhart The Aspen Times

ASPEN – Highway 82 over Independence Pass, southeast of Aspen, is scheduled to remain open until Nov. 7 at 2 p.m. – unless Mother Nature takes matters into her own hands. And, she just might.

Nov. 7 is the annual scheduled closure date for the pass, but wintery weather regularly forces the Colorado Department of Transportation to lock the gates on either side of the 12,095-foot pass early.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning for the Elk Mountains surrounding Aspen on Friday. It is in effect until noon today. Four to six inches of snow are forecast, mostly above timberline. Travelers were warned to anticipate icy conditions and snowpacked roads in the mountains last night.

Aspen’s forecast called for rain and a chance of snow through the weekend and into next week, as a changing weather pattern brings an abrupt end to what has been a long, temperate fall. Strong winds are expected Monday ahead of a cold front; clearing skies are not expected until Thursday, according to the National Weather Service.

Still, the lower reaches of Independence Pass remained painted in the lingering hues of autumn on Friday morning. A modest accumulation of fresh snow graced the summit.

Last year, CDOT closed the pass on Oct. 27 in advance of an approaching storm, intending to reopen it if weather conditions permitted. Instead, drifting snow, poor visibility and the potential for more snow convinced CDOT to leave the route closed.

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In 2008, CDOT locked the gate four days ahead of the scheduled November closure date after a foot of snow fell on the upper reaches of the pass, stranding motorists who were rescued by deputies.

In 2007, good weather kept the pass open until its scheduled closure on Nov. 7, while in 2006, the pass was closed for a brief spell during an unusual September snowstorm, and closed for good on Oct. 20.

The pass was open until Nov. 7 in 2005, 2003 and 2001, while wintery weather forced early closures in 2004, 2002 and 2000.

Once the pass closes for the winter, there’s only one way in and out of Aspen by road – Highway 82 to the northwest. It links up with Interstate 70 in Glenwood Springs. The pass reopens – generally on schedule – in late May, shortly before Memorial Day weekend.

Go to http://www.cotrip.org for up-to-date road conditions around the state, including the status of Highway 82 on Independence Pass.

janet@aspentimes.com