Independence Pass will remain closed through Friday morning, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson confirmed Wednesday.
The scenic roadway was shut down earlier this week as a result of winter weather and was intended to be for just a short period of time — not the entire winter season — as some CDOT messaging had suggested.
“Our new COtrip has been tremendously popular, which is excellent. It also means we have a lot of new users,” Elise Thatcher, CDOT Region 3 communications manager, said of the technology that is supposed to provide travelers with up-to-date road conditions and alerts.
On Tuesday, however, COtrip caused confusion when it erroneously reported that Independence Pass had closed due to winter weather and that it would remain closed “until May 5, 2022 at about 12:00 PM MDT.”
Although Independence Pass did in fact close as a result of inclement weather, CDOT never intended to keep it shut down until May as COtrip, and other digital signage along Highway 82, had suggested on Tuesday evening.
“We’ve had some hiccups with the new system — this is one of them,” Thatcher said. “We’re ironing out some wrinkles, making sure that it’s working properly for everybody.”
On Tuesday afternoon, a single-vehicle accident near the top of Independence also sent a man to Aspen Valley Hospital, via ambulance, with a leg injury.
“There was a crash but that was not the reason for the closure,” Thatcher said.
On Wednesday afternoon, CDOT crews plowed snow off Independence Pass in anticipation of another storm system rolling through the area.
According to Thatcher, Independence Pass will likely remain closed through Friday morning, at which time CDOT will reevaluate the road’s conditions.
“Hopefully we can reopen then. It will be dependent on conditions,” Thatcher said. “We do apologize for any confusion.”
Lucas Boyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Grand Junction, said Pitkin County’s forecast calls for more snowfall Thursday followed by sunshine and warmer temperatures this weekend.
However, Boyer said Independence Pass could see quite a bit of wintry weather before those warmer temperatures start to roll in on Saturday and Sunday.
“The potential there is for … anywhere from four to eight [inches of snow] up there at the high pass level,” Boyer said. “This will be kind of a one-hit deal.”
While it has been widely written in road atlases and other publications that the pass is closed seasonally from Thanksgiving through Memorial Day, the actuality is that the pass typically closes a few weeks before the former and reopens a few weeks before the latter.
Last year, the pass was closed for the season on Nov. 13, and in 2019, the winter gate was locked on Oct. 28 — the earliest closure of the last decade. Generally, the pass is closed for the season in the second or third week of November.