Red Mountain Pass is closed indefinitely as a result of significant snowslides on both sides of the pass on U.S. Highway 550, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.
“Avalanche mitigation teams and maintenance crews have triggered and continue to trigger an unprecedented amount of snow from several avalanche paths that are now covering the roadway,” CDOT wrote Tuesday afternoon in a news release.
The pass has been closed since about 11:30 p.m. Sunday, when a naturally occurring slide covered the road.
Crews used an avalanche blasting gun Monday to mitigate for more slides. One of those blasts brought down a huge slab of snow that covered a half mile section of road 10- to 30-feet deep in some areas, said Lisa Schwantes, spokeswoman with CDOT. The snowslide included an extensive amount of debris, limbs and trees. Extra equipment was needed and has been called in from others areas to clear the highway.
“It took one shot (from an avalanche gun) and we had a ton of snow come down,” Schwantes said.
Additional mitigation is planned for Wednesday.
“This extended closure has been implemented to ensure the safety of the traveling public, said Regional Transportation Director Mike McVaugh. “It’s our desire to get all paths mitigated and safe prior to the next round of winter weather that begins as early as tonight (Tuesday night).”
Other passes in the region were open, including Coal Bank, Molas, Wolf Creek and Lizard Head. Northbound travelers from Durango can reach Silverton. Southbound travelers from Ridgway can reach Ouray. However, drivers traveling from Durango to Ouray (or Ouray to Durango) may consider the alternate, more westerly route via Colorado Highway 145 through Telluride.
Drivers are advised to watch for snow removal operations, especially on the shoulders of mountain passes.
Travelers should also watch for rocks in the road and be aware of potential rockfall. Increased rockfall activity is occurring along cliff wall areas because of spring-like conditions and freeze-thaw cycles.