CDOT Warns Backcountry Users: Watch where you park!

Travel Advisory

February 14, 2020 - Statewide News - Skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers should use extreme caution when leaving vehicles on side of the road

Avalanche signage on the side of the roadway in the mountains

This caution sign indicates an avalanche area and advises that there is no stopping or standing at the location. Backcountry users are urged to watch for these signs and never park vehicles or trailers on the side of the road at these sites. 

STATEWIDE ― The Colorado Department of Transportation urges outdoor enthusiasts heading to the backcountry to: WATCH WHERE YOU PARK! CDOT recognizes and appreciates that the public uses and enjoys Colorado’s backcountry, but when searching for areas to park vehicles or trailers, the public is reminded to do so safely and lawfully. Anyone leaving a vehicle unattended on the side of the road, runs the risk of breaking the law, being fined, and having their vehicle towed away by law enforcement. 

Backcountry users should be aware of avalanche conditions as well as known slide path areas along the highway, which are clearly signed. These snow slide areas are often at locations where avalanche control operations may be planned.  

“Never leave vehicles near or adjacent to snow slide areas!” said CDOT Maintenance Supervisor, Tyler Carlson. “Just this week, we were forced to cancel an avalanche control mission on US 50 Monarch Pass, because a vehicle was parked in the snow slide path area. This absolutely hinders our winter maintenance operations, plus it is extremely dangerous because your car or truck could be covered with snow by a natural slide.”

Carlson went on to explain that it was apparent the occupants of the vehicle were backcountry skiing. It was decided not to tow the vehicle, because the crew could not continue with the avalanche control mission without knowing the whereabouts of the skier(s). Carlson also added that the section of US 50 is safe for the traveling public. The mission has been rescheduled for early next week. Travelers who frequently drive Monarch Pass should visit for information about possible highway closures. 

Backcountry users should park only in clearly marked and designated parking areas, typically found at the summit of mountain passes and at some trail heads. While some areas along the highway may provide ample room to park several feet away and off the asphalt, CDOT warns vehicle owners that they run the risk of being trapped with snow pushed by the plow. Vehicles left on the side of the road also make the plowing job difficult for road maintenance crews. A digital flyer for the media, other agencies, and area visitor centers is available to print and share: WATCH WHERE YOU PARK

OBEY THE LAW: Backcountry users are also advised that when leaving vehicles on the shoulder of the road, they are at risk of being fined and their vehicle being towed away. Owners who leave vehicles unattended on the side of the road are at risk of obstructing avalanche control missions and the operation of heavy equipment. Obstructing highway operations is in violation of state law.  

Colorado Statute: Title 42. Vehicles and Traffic

Article 4. Regulation of Vehicles and Traffic

Part 18. Vehicles Abandoned on Public Property

§ 42-4-1803. Abandonment of motor vehicles - public property

(2) Whenever any… (law enforcement) …. or agency employee finds a motor vehicle... attended or unattended, standing upon any portion of a highway right-of-way in such a manner as to constitute an obstruction to traffic or proper highway maintenance, such officer or agency employee is authorized to cause the motor vehicle, vehicle, cargo, or debris to be moved to eliminate any such obstruction...

For more information or to read the Colorado law in its entirety, visit:


In early 2019, CDOT announced its Whole System — Whole Safety initiative to heighten safety awareness. This initiative takes a systematic statewide approach to safety combining the benefits of CDOT’s programs that address driving behaviors, our built environment and the organization's operations. The goal is to improve the safety of Colorado’s transportation network by reducing the rate and severity of crashes and improving the safety of all transportation modes. The program has one simple mission—to get everyone home safely.


CDOT has approximately 3,000 employees located throughout Colorado, and manages more than 23,000 lane miles of highway and 3,429 bridges. CDOT also manages grant partnerships with a range of other agencies, including metropolitan planning organizations, local governments and airports. It also administers Bustang, the state-owned and operated inter-regional express service. Governor Polis has charged CDOT to further build on the state’s mulimodal mobility options.