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Independence Pass Closed for Winter Season

Independence Pass Closed for Winter Season Amidst Early Snowfall

OCTOBER 30, 2023 – COLORADO — The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced the seasonal closure of CO 82 Independence Pass. This decision follows significant early snowfall over the past weekend, rendering the pass unsafe for travelers and maintenance workers.

Every winter, CDOT shuts down Independence Pass as a safety measure, due to the challenges of plowing steep switchbacks on CO 82 on both sides of the pass. Besides, during the winter months, certain sections of the road become vulnerable to severe avalanche risks.

Motorists who intend to reach Aspen from the Denver Metro Area during the closure can navigate via westbound I-70 to Glenwood Springs, followed by a southward drive on CO 82 to Aspen. As per traditional practices, CDOT plans to reopen the pass on the Thursday leading up to the Memorial Day holiday weekend, provided the weather is favorable.

Historically, Independence Pass usually sees its doors close in November. Here’s a look back at closure dates over the past few years:

  • 2011: November 2
  • 2012: November 9
  • 2013: November 4
  • 2014: November 12
  • 2015: November 4
  • 2016: November 17
  • 2017: November 17
  • 2018: November 5
  • 2019: October 28
  • 2020: November 13
  • 2021: October 28
  • 2022: November 4

Independence Pass, managed by CDOT, is renowned as a Colorado Scenic and Historic Byway. Boasting the title of the highest paved state highway in Colorado, it crosses the Continental Divide at an astonishing 12,095 feet. The road, though paved, is narrow with sharp curves in several parts, making it a challenge to navigate in adverse weather conditions. There are also areas along the route with steep drop-offs, and some parts of the roadway can only accommodate the width of a single car. This necessitates drivers to be extra cautious, especially when meeting oncoming traffic.

Strategically positioned 18 miles west of Twin Lakes and 19 miles east of Aspen, Independence Pass stretches through 32 miles of mountainous terrain. It offers breathtaking views, traversing the San Isabel National Forest on its eastern side and the White River National Forest on the west.

Unfortunately, during the winter season, the topmost sections of the pass get buried under heavy snow, making it impassable. Typically, Independence Pass remains accessible to the public during the summer months, from Memorial Day through November, contingent on prevailing weather conditions.

View of Independence Pass

Winter Travel Tips for Drivers:

  1. Always check the weather forecast and road conditions before embarking on a journey.
  2. Keep an emergency kit in your car, including blankets, water, food, and first-aid essentials.
  3. Ensure your vehicle is equipped with winter tires and that they’re in good condition.
  4. Always maintain a safe distance from the vehicle ahead, especially in snowy or icy conditions.
  5. If confronted with heavy snowfall or reduced visibility, consider postponing your travel or seek shelter until conditions improve.
  6. Familiarize yourself with your vehicle’s 4WD or AWD system if it has one, and know when to use it.
  7. Keep a half tank of gas in your vehicle during the winter months to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  8. If stranded, remain inside your vehicle for warmth and safety.

Traveling during winter requires extra vigilance. Ensure you’re well-prepared, and always prioritize safety. Learn more with our comprehensive mountain safety guide. Safe travels!

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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