Avalanche Hazards and Mitigation Statewide

STATEWIDE—Due to heavy snow and high wind gusts, and in the interest of public safety, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has conducted both planned and unplanned avalanche mitigation work on several mountain passes across the state today, and is listing other passes as avalanche hazards. Mitigation work is expected to continue through tomorrow as the next storm front moves into the state.

Natural avalanche slides have been reported along I-70.

Berthoud Pass

Bank slide on US 40 Berthoud Pass on Jan. 10, 2017

Crews conducted avalanche mitigation early this morning, which caused a significant amount of snow to cover the roadway. While crews were working, several smaller natural slides occurred on Berthoud Pass, showing that the pass was unstable and could not be opened back up to motorists. Currently, avalanche mitigation is being conducted on the 80s on Berthoud Pass. The pass is anticipated to open tonight once it is deemed safe for motorists.

Loveland Pass

Loveland Pass remains closed today, Jan. 10, due to adverse weather conditions. Crews are planning on conducting avalanche mitigation work early tomorrow morning, weather dependent, and will then determine if the pass is safe to open.

I-70: Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels to Silverthorne

At about 10:30 a.m., crews conducted avalanche control work, just west of the Eisenhower/Johnson Memorial Tunnels. Crews mitigated the lower slides near the tunnels, which caused about eight to 10 feet of snow and debris to cover the eastbound and westbound lanes of I-70.

Silverthorne to Vail Pass

Around 3:30 a.m. Jan. 10, a natural slide occurred on Vail Pass trapping one semi-truck and affecting two others on the fringe of the slide. No injuries were reported. The slide measured about 15 feet in some sections and covered both the westbound and eastbound lanes.

Northwest Colorado

Avalanche control work was conducted on CO 65 Grand Mesa and saw significant runs on the slide paths at that location. Crews are continuing clean up in the area.

CO 133 is now open, but crews will be keeping an eye on the conditions through the night, and mitigation could still be a possibility.

Southwestern/South Central Colorado

The next winter storm front will hit the southwest region of the state tonight and tomorrow (Wednesday), and will last through Friday. Adverse conditions are expected, especially in the high country. The anticipated storm has CDOT maintenance crews and Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) forecasters preparing for additional snowslide mitigation operations throughout the week and weekend.

US 550 Molas and Coal Bank Passes:
Molas and Coal Bank passes are open with traction law (code 15) in effect for passenger vehicles and chain law (code 18) in effect for all commercial vehicles. Avalanche control work began at 7 a.m., and crews worked to clear snow and debris from the highway until 3 p.m., when the passes were opened.

Yesterday a snow slide was triggered by a backcountry skier between these two passes. Snow, eight feet deep, covered 200 feet of the roadway. Molas and Coal Bank passes are located between the communities of Durango and Silverton.

US 550 Red Mountain Pass: Red Mountain Pass remains closed at this time. Avalanche control and snow-clearing operations are taking place now through the remainder of the day. Operations are expected to continue through tomorrow (Wednesday). The area has seen natural slides and very adverse weather conditions, making operations difficult for crews. There is no estimated time of opening. Red Mountain Pass is located between the communities of Silverton and Ouray.

CO 145 Lizard Head Pass: Lizard Head Pass is currently open. Crews completed avalanche control work at approximately 11:30 a.m. This pass is located just south of Telluride.

US 50 Monarch Pass: Monarch Pass is open with traction law (code 15) in effect for passenger vehicles and chain law (code 18) in effect for all commercial vehicles. Crews completed avalanche control work on Monarch Pass at approximately 10:30 a.m.. However, the pass pass did not open until about 1 p.m. because of adverse road conditions and additional snow-clearing operations. Monarch Pass is located west of Poncha Springs/Salida.

US 160 Wolf Creek Pass: Wolf Creek Pass is open with chain law (code 18) in effect for all commercial vehicles. The pass will close from 6-9 a.m. tomorrow, Wednesday, Jan. 11 for avalanche control operations. The east side of the pass will remain open from South Fork to the Ski Area. Wolf Creek Pass is located east of Pagosa Springs.

Our partners at Colorado State Patrol share the following tips to keep you safe:

  • If you are involved in a crash, stay in your vehicle and keep your seatbelt buckled, call 911 and wait for CSP, local law enforcement or emergency management professionals to arrive.
  • Many crashes can be avoided if motorists SLOW DOWN, use caution and drive for the conditions. Slowing down allows you the opportunity to react to changing conditions.
  • Always drive with your view to the front of the hood so you're prepared to react as needed, and leave plenty of space between you and the vehicle ahead of you.

Both passenger and commercial motorists should be aware of the state of Colorado's traction and chain laws, which are implemented when conditions require. When either law is in effect, highway signage will be activated. Without proper equipment, motorists can be fined $130. If your vehicle blocks the roadway, you could be fined more than $650.

Passenger vehicles:

  • Traction Law (Code 15)—Motorists will need snow tires, tires with mud/snow (M/S) designation, or a four-wheel-drive vehicle. All tires must have a minimum one-eighth inch tread.
  • Passenger Vehicle Chain Law (Code 16)—Every vehicle on the roadway must have chains or an alternative traction device (like AutoSock).

Commercial vehicles:

  • Commercial Chain Law (Code 18)—All commercial vehicles must chain up. Code 18 may be implemented any time there is snow covering the pavement on an ascending grade and to minimize road closures.

CDOT is reminding motorists to consult the department's traveler information tools:

  • Visit COtrip to view road conditions, travel alerts and track our snowplows.
  • Call 511 anywhere in Colorado for periodically updated road conditions.
  • Sign up for GovDelivery alerts.
  • Follow CDOT on Twitter and Facebook (though the latter will not provide the most up-to-date news and conditions).