Road closure

Update: Castle Creek Road reopened at 8 p.m. Sunday evening.

According to a Pitkin Alert text message: "As of 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 9, Castle Creek Road is fully open to vehicle traffic with no restrictions. While no immediate threat is known, risky conditions remain for avalanches in the high country, and motorists are advised to use due caution when driving through known avalanche zones."

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Castle Creek Road remained closed Saturday evening after an early morning avalanche buried the road 4 miles up from the roundabout, prompting crews to bring in a helicopter team to drop explosives intended to induce controlled avalanche releases.

A professional helicopter avalanche control company dropped 10 15-pound charges from the air onto likely avalanche areas on steep slopes above the valley, but the effort didn’t trigger any further avalanches, according to a press release.

A Holy Cross Electric team heading up to Conundrum Creek Road to fix a downed power line just after 5 a.m. discovered a slide that covered a 500-foot-wide section of Castle Creek Road as much as 12 feet deep in avalanche debris. Pitkin County road and bridge crews shortly thereafter began working to clear a path through the slide.

A 7:15 a.m. Pitkin Alert message warned motorists not to attempt to cross the slide path.

A one-lane passageway was opened but was available for emergency use. Anyone living or staying in 77 residences above the slide was stuck.

Power was also out at many of the residences. Crews will continue working Sunday to restore power.

The helicopter operation wrapped up at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. Road clearing continued after that, but a press release says that operations would cease after nightfall for safety reasons.

“One lane is currently open to emergency traffic, but personal vehicles are not being allowed to traverse the slide zone,” the press release says.

Mapping indicates there are 77 residential structures affected by the closure, though many are not occupied full time.

"Though potentially inconvenient, long-term safety is crucial and is best managed by dealing with the heavy snow loads that are currently poised on the steep slopes adjacent to the valley," says a press release from the Pitkin County incident management team issued before the helicopter operation began. "We urge all residents to shelter in place. Please call 911 if anyone has immediate urgent medical needs. Do not attempt to cross the slide paths until the all clear is given by further communication via [the Pitkin County incident management team]."

The mountains around Aspen have seen up to six feet or more of snow in the last week, some of it very heavy and wet, leading to extreme avalanche danger. Please use caution around any avalanche terrain.

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