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Bombs, Helicopter Needed To Negate Independence Pass Avalanche Danger

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TWIN LAKES, Colo. (CBS4) – Clearing Independence Pass of avalanche danger takes planning, a helicopter and 30-pound bombs.

Some of the most dangerous avalanche paths in Colorado are along Independence Pass. That is a major reason why the pass closes for the winter every year.

Avalanche blasting on Independence Pass. (credit: CBS)

Avalanche blasting on Independence Pass. (credit: CBS)

Snow showers delayed the start of avalanche mitigation for an hour and a half on Wednesday morning.

“We knew we were going to have some snow showers after lunchtime, so we come in a little early, it’s not ideal but we had a little break right now so we’re going to get after it,” said Colorado Department of Transportation Equipment Manager Jack Stieber.

A full season of winter snow has built up along the Beeler Grade on the east side of Independence Pass.

“The cornice up there, if we can get it to go, the snow below it is going to come with it and clean out the path,” said Stieber.

The best way to clear the danger is to use a helicopter and 30-pound bombs.

“It’s going to look really good today, we’re doing really good,” said Stieber.

The avalanche danger has increased with the large amount of spring snow.

“Most of the avalanches we’re seeing are within the new snow layer,” said Colorado Avalanche Information Center forecaster Dr. Ethan Greene.

Several members of the CAIC were watching the slides being set off to control unplanned avalanches along the pass.

“We have seen a few places where it’s breaking down into those old snow layers, we haven’t seen many of those avalanches in maybe the last month,” said Greene.

Dozens of blasts were set off to get Highway 82 cleared so it can be reopened.

“We’re getting all the snow to move down out of the track and past the roadway so it’s not an issue for CDOT staff or the public once we open up the road,” said Greene.

Over the next week crews will be clearing snow on their way to the summit. Weather permitting CDOT said they will have Independence Pass open May 22.

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