Avalanche debris blocking Maroon Creek Road has delayed opening to the Maroon Bells Scenic Area this spring, but the Pitkin County Road and Bridge Department has made great progress clearing the debris.
Work accomplished in the past two weeks indicates that May 24 is the new tentative target date for opening. It was originally thought that the opening may be delayed to June 15, so the adjustment in the schedule is a welcome development, the U.S. Forest Service and Pitkin County reported in a press release issued Tuesday.
“We have spent the last two weeks working hard to clear the road,” Pitkin County Road and Bridge manager Scott Mattice said in a press release. “Even with available staff and equipment focused on getting the road open as quickly as possible, it isn’t realistic for us to think we can match our mid-May opening of last year. Right now, May 24 is most realistic.”
Crews began clearing Maroon Creek Road in earnest on May 1. Crews encountered compact snow, ice and debris, sheared-off trees and boulders. The work has required dedicated staff, heavy equipment and long hours.
Maroon Bells Scenic Area is a popular destination for June weddings and other activities. The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District is advising people with reservations for early June events to expect winter conditions at Maroon Lake and for all visiting the area to expect significant snow on the surrounding trails. Fortunately, the new tentative opening date does not impact amphitheater wedding reservations as was originally anticipated.
“We have been keeping reservation holders as up-to-date as possible with the unfolding situation on Maroon Creek and at the Maroon Bells Scenic Area,” Shelly Grail, recreation manager for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said in the release. “Fortunately, with all the hard work that has taken place, the new target opening date will not impact amphitheater reservations. We can’t thank our partners at Pitkin County enough for all of their hard work and for the public’s patience as we work to address the impacts from the intense winter season and avalanche cycle.”
While Maroon Creek Road should be open in time for Memorial Day, the Forest Service will not be providing any services at the scenic area until the beginning of June.
Clearing work will be ongoing in the coming weeks, and signs are posted at the road closure gate on Maroon Creek Road warning curiosity-seekers to stay clear of the heavy equipment for safety reasons.
“We’ll be able to focus on getting the road open if we don’t have to worry about people walking or biking where we’re working,” Mattice said. “We can’t always see them from the cabs of our equipment.”
Pitkin County Road and Bridge and the Forest Service will post updates about road-clearing progress and projected openings in the coming weeks.
Roaring Fork Transportation Authority shuttles will begin operation on June 15. For more information visit https://www.rfta.com/routes/maroon-bells/.
For general information about visiting the Aspen area please visit aspenchamber.org.
For continued updates visit the White River National Forest’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WhiteRiverNF/ or go to https://www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver, or call the Maroon Bells information line at 970-945-3319 or the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District at 970-963-2266.