Prepare for a White Christmas Along I-70 Mountain Corridor

Dec. 24, 2017 -

Motorists should plan on difficult travel conditions late this evening into Christmas Day. Conditions will look similar to what we saw along the I-70 Mountain corridor on Saturday, Dec. 23.

CDOT asks motorists to please not drive on I-70 if you do not have tire tread that measures at least one-eighth of an inch, a four-wheel or all-wheel-drive vehicle, and/or chains or an alternative traction device (like an AutoSock).

The National Weather Service (NWS) predicts a winter weather advisory will be in effect from 11 p.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, Dec. 25. Motorists can expect snow and blowing snow as well as slippery road conditions. In addition, areas of poor visibility are expected. Travelers over Vail Pass in particular will experience difficult and dangerous driving conditions at times. The areas that will be under a Winter Weather Advisory include the mountains of Summit County, the Mosquito Mountain Range, the Indian Peaks and Elk/Central Mountain Valleys (Aspen, Vail, Snowmass, Crested Butte, Taylor Park, Marble, Berthoud Pass, Breckenridge, East Slopes of Mosquito Mountain Range, East Slopes Southern Gore Range, Eisenhower Johnson Memorial Tunnels, Indian Peaks, Kenosha Mountains, Mount Evans, Williams Forks Mountains and Winter Park).

With the total snow accumulation predicted to be between six and 12 inches, motorists should also be advised of potential avalanche mitigation on Loveland Pass and Berthoud Pass the mornings of Monday, Dec. 25 and Tuesday, Dec. 26. The avalanche-control work will cause travel delays while operations are taking place and plows then clear the roads.

"We saw multiple spinouts and crashes during yesterday's storm due to, in large part, motorists driving too fast for the conditions, or not having the right tires or chains," said Kyle Lester, director of CDOT Highway Maintenance. "We strongly urge motorists to take it slow when traveling to your destination. Keep a safe distance between you and the person in front of you. Please take a look at road conditions before you head up into the high country and use your best judgement."

Winter Driving Tips & Guidelines

  • Check your tires.
    • Worn tires can't grip the road well and can be extremely hazardous. Check your tires by performing the Quarter Test. Insert a quarter into the tire tread upside down, with Washington's head going in first; if the top of George's head is covered by the tread, your tires are OK (do this test in multiple points around each tire). If the top of his head is visible at any point, you need new tires.

    • Invest in safety by getting a set of snow tires. When it comes to stopping safely on snow and ice, all-season tires simply don't compare to winter tires (see infographic).
    • If your tires don't have at least a one-eighth-inch tread when a Traction Law is called, you are in violation of the law and could end up with a fine.

  • Leave extra room.
    • Leave extra room between your vehicle and others on the road at all times.

    • Even vehicles with four-wheel/all-wheel drive will not stop any quicker on icy roads, especially if you have inadequate tires.

  • Drive for conditions.
    • In poor visibility, don't drive faster than you can see ahead. High speeds in poor visibility can lead to dangerous chain reactions.

  • Bow to the plow.
    • Snowplows need space to work, so unless you want to cause a crash, delays or be stuck on a snow-covered road, don't crowd the plow!

    • If you must pass a snowplow, do so on the left and with extreme caution.

  • Be I-70 smart.
    • Check to see travel forecasts for the I-70 mountain corridor, road updates, rideshare and parking information, deals on lodging, food and entertainment for travelers, and more.

    • Remember to avoid peak travel times whenever possible, and consider carpooling or alternative transportation.

  • Have a plan
    • If you are stuck in a serious storm, do not leave your car. Run the engine periodically and wait for help.

    • Prepare a winter driving vehicle kit. Carry blankets, water, a flashlight, a shovel, some nutrition bars or other food for sustenance. Winterize your vehicle's safety kit by including extra blankets, sand to help gain traction in the event you become stuck on ice or snow, jumper cables and an ice scraper.

Additionally, all motorists should be familiar with Colorado's Passenger Vehicle Traction Law and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law. These laws are implemented when weather and road conditions require it, at which time highway signage will be activated to alert drivers.

  • Traction Law—When the Traction Law is in effect, motorists must have snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel/all-wheel drive vehicle. All tires must have a minimum one-eighth-inch tread.

  • Passenger Vehicle Chain Law—Reserved for severe winter conditions as the final safety measure before an interstate is closed, the Passenger Vehicle Chain Law states that every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).

Without proper equipment, you can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.

"Our crews are working hard to make sure the roads are safe for motorists to drive on," Lester said. "If there are spots that have no-to-limited visibility, we will conduct a safety closure. We will also implement a safety closure if it can be reasonably predicted that crashes or spinouts could occur due to the weather. We will then concentrate on the closed areas to get them open as fast as possible."

CDOT snowplows are out in full force throughout the weekend, clearing highways and interstates, and applying deicing products. Motorists are asked to stay behind the plows as that can often be safer than being in front of them. If a motorist must pass a plow, please pass on the left.

See where plows have been and where they're going by using CDOT's plow tracking tool.