Those waiting for the gates to open to one of Colorado’s most popular outdoor destinations won’t have to idle much longer as plow crews make the final push to clear several feet of avalanche debris.
The Maroon Bells Scenic Area is expected to open May 24, the White River National Forest announced in a news release. That’s about a week later than last year, but 22 days earlier than what forest officials originally predicted.
“Pitkin County has put forth a monumental effort in clearing the road the last few weeks,” said Kate Jerman, spokeswoman with the White River National Forest.
Snowplow drivers got their wheels turning to clear Maroon Creek Road on May 1, the news release said. They faced compact snow, ice, debris, sheared-off trees and boulders that barreled down nearby slopes during heavy storms.
The Forest Service will not offer services until June, and the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority will not run shuttles until June 15. Those with reservations in June should prepare for wintry weather.
Independence Pass also will open later than usual.
If initial plow efforts go well, the road between Aspen and Twin Lakes will open the first weekend in June instead of the Thursday before Memorial Day.
Several avalanches and heavy snowfall this winter have left some spots of Colorado 82 covered with up to 40 feet of snow and debris consisting of large rocks and snapped trees. Also, a stretch of guardrail has been demolished and will need replacing for safe passage on the road that connects Twin Lakes and Aspen.
CDOT crews, with the assistance of Colorado Avalanche Information Center experts, will conduct avalanche mitigation using explosive charges dropped from a helicopter on May 22, Aspen Daily News reported. Crews are also worried about how the snowbank walls will melt as some reach 15 feet.