ASPEN, Colo. (CBS4) – In a sign that summer is just around the corner, the Colorado Department of Transportation on Thursday shifted their process of getting Independence Pass ready for traffic into high gear.
Crews began working to lessen the avalanche danger by doing blasting on the pass, which runs over the Continental Divide. CDOT hopes that by doing this mitigation now it will keep slides from blocking traffic once the road reopens.
See Drone4 video over the pass on Thursday below:
Independence Pass typically opens for the season around Memorial Day weekend and is a popular way for drivers to get to the destination town of Aspen in the summer months.
The work includes using a helicopter to drop bombs on snow shelves. The result is a wave of snow and ice sliding down the mountain and onto Highway 82.
“It’s one of our funnest jobs, but it’s very dangerous. The chopper, the wind, the explosives. It’s all tied together. You’ve got to be very careful, safe. You’ve got to go home at night,” CDOT spokesman Jack Steiber said.
Recent snow on top of the hard packed layer of snow from the winter is adding to the avalanche risks. Ethan Greene of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said that’s the situation currently across much of Colorado’s high country.
“Most of the backcountry avalanche activity we’ve seen in the last few weeks have been from new snow,” said Greene.
When the pass opens, motorists will be able to travel from the Twin Lakes area near Leadville up to an elevation of 12,095 feet and then down into Aspen.