Independence Pass could close anytime
Time is running out for travel over Independence Pass east of Aspen.Colorado Department of Transportation crews try to keep Highway 82 over the 12,095-foot pass open as long as safely possible until Nov. 7 – the established annual closure date for the pass – but oftentimes, they wind up locking the gates early.Plow crews worked about eight hours to keep the route across the Continental Divide open during Sunday’s snows, according to a CDOT spokesman. The agency’s Web site detailing statewide road conditions (www.cotrip.org) lists the status of Independence Pass as open – conditions permitting. Last year, CDOT closed the pass Friday, Oct. 20, because of hazardous travel conditions, intending to reopen it after the weather cleared. Instead, snow, wind and whiteouts made the route impossible to safely maintain, and the agency announced the following Monday that the pass would remain closed for the winter. It had already closed temporarily twice with last fall’s early snowstorms.Once the gates are locked on both the Aspen and Twin Lakes sides of the pass, 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. When it is open, the pass is a scenic shortcut for travel between Aspen and points south, as well as Denver and the Front Range.Weather permitting, CDOT reopens the pass each May, just before Memorial Day weekend.On Sunday, a quick-moving storm dumped up to a foot of snow in the high country. Aspen Mountain received 6 inches at its 11,212-foot summit, and 8 inches fell on the upper reaches of Snowmass, according to the Aspen Skiing Co. Both mountains are scheduled to open Nov. 22.Breckenridge and Loveland ski areas both received a foot of snow, and Loveland announced it would open Tuesday with one 1,000-foot vertical run and a packed base of at least 18 inches. Keystone Resort said it would fire its snow guns Sunday night, and Breckenridge planned to start blasting its guns by the end of the week, when more snow is in the forecast. Both resorts plan to open Nov. 9. Arapahoe Basin opened last week, making it the first Colorado ski resort to open this season.According to the National Weather Service, another storm will move into the mountains on Wednesday night. A 50 percent chance of snow is in the forecast for Aspen on Thursday.
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