Aided by warm temperatures, state road crews aim to have Independence Pass open on May 11, nearly two weeks sooner than its previously scheduled opening.
The pass will close temporarily starting Friday, May 18, at 8 p.m. until Saturday, May 19, at 1:30 p.m. for the annual Ride the Pass cycling event, hosted by the Independence Pass Foundation.
Opening the pass this year was a drastically different chore than last spring, says a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) press release.
In 2011, crews had to use a “very powerful snowcat” to remove a snowpack that ranged from 452 percent to 361 percent of average, the release says. Snow alongside the road reached 25 feet in places, and crews narrowly made the Memorial Day deadline to open the 12,095-foot pass.
This spring, the snowpack on the pass is at zero percent of average, according to CDOT, citing information from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC).
“This has been an extraordinarily wild swing in snowpack amounts compared to last year,” CAIC forecaster Rob Hunker said in the release. “We’ve had two extreme years in a row — last year, the snowpack melted around June 23, this year it happened by May 1.”
Crews have been busy moving 256 concrete barriers; hauling away 390 loads of rock debris from ditches; laying 150 tons of asphalt on the shoulders for the barriers; patching pot holes; drilling and blasting six boulders so they could be removed from ditches; and trimming trees and brush.
While avalanches are still possible in some places in the backcountry, there is no threat of slides on Highway 82, Hunker said.