Winter greets motorists on opening weekend for pass |

Winter greets motorists on opening weekend for pass

Eben Harrell
Listening to arguments from a pair of motorcylists, Pitkin County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Kendrick stopped motorists to warn them of ice and snow with possible closures and delays atop Independance Pass Monday morning May 31, 2004. A CDOT snowplow slid sideways on the Lake County (east) side of the pass stopping traffic for more than an hour. Aspen Times photo/Paul Conrad.

To many holiday seekers, the Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer, but drivers on Independence Pass yesterday morning faced harsh winter conditions as snow drifts and ice patches caused delays and a brief closure of the mountain road.

Local off-piste skiers reveled in the conditions, filling the summit’s parking lot as early as 8 a.m.

A blast of snow early Monday morning followed by high winds caused drifts to accumulate around the summit, said Colorado Department of Transportation officials. A CDOT snowplow working to clear the drifts got stuck trying to turn around on the east side of the pass. County and CDOT officials closed the highway at 10:26 a.m. for approximately an hour while the plow was being pulled free.

When the pass was reopened, a sheriff’s deputy manned the gates on Highway 82 to warn drivers of the dangerous conditions. Traffic on the east side remained restricted to one lane until early afternoon as CDOT treated the roads.

“I’m sending most non-four-wheel-drive [vehicles] away,” said Deputy Michael Kendrick, attending the Aspen-side gate. “For people driving to Colorado Springs, it might be worth the delay. But I’m advising almost anyone on the way to Denver not to risk it just to save the extra half hour.”

The harsh conditions were a treat for local winter-sports enthusiasts, according to Aspen Times reporter Steve Benson.

“I got there around 8 a.m. and the parking lot was full,” Benson said. “You’d think it was winter up there. The skiing was really good for this late in the year.”

Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is

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