US 550 North of Durango Closed

Jan. 9, 2017 -

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has closed US Highway (US) 550 north of Durango due to multiple slides on the highway and increased avalanche danger. The closure includes all three mountain passes: Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain.

The 42-mile closure begins just north of Purgatory Ski Resort at Cascade Creek, mile point (MP) 53 and continues to the Town of Ouray, MP 95. There is no estimated time of opening. Avalanche control operations will be attempted on US 550 later today if weather and visibility conditions improve.

"Overnight snowfall exceeded the high end of the forecast with heavy snow continuing at this time," said Ann Mellick, forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC). "Snowfall rates have reached more than two inches per hour. This intense rate has triggered widespread avalanching along the US 550 corridor."

CDOT works closely with the CAIC to determine if conditions are acceptable for motorists traveling through the high country. The CAIC reports that the north San Juan Mountain Range has received a significant amount of snow this week.

CAIC Snow Totals 24 hour 4 day
Red Mt. Pass 8" 25.5"
Molas Pass 7" 20"
Coal Bank Pass 7" 18"

Motorists may experience road closures, delays and chain law restrictions on several high mountain passes throughout southwest and south central Colorado this holiday weekend due to the winter snowstorm moving through the region.


Drivers in passenger and commercial vehicles must follow Colorado's traction and chain laws, which are implemented when conditions require them. 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.


    Road and weather conditions are available by dialing 511, 303-639-1111, or visiting COtrip. Available on/from the COtrip site are:

    The traveling public may also visit the CDOT website, sign up for GovDelivery alerts, and follow CDOT on Twitter and Facebook. (Note: The latter may not provide the most up-to-date news and conditions.)