Red Mountain Pass on U.S. Highway 550 could be closed for two more weeks as crews work around the clock to dig out the road from heavy snowfall and avalanches.
The pass between Silverton and Ouray closed March 3 after avalanches covered the road in up to 60 feet of snow.
The Colorado Department of Transportation said Monday that last week’s unsettled weather and high avalanche danger prevented crews from performing snow removal operations.
On Saturday, however, CDOT was able to do some avalanche mitigation. A helicopter triggered more than 25 slide paths that had the potential of collapsing on the road.
“By mid-morning on Saturday, after the first of several slides had been triggered and fallen onto the closed highway, equipment operators with their arsenal of heavy machines headed down the closed road to start pushing snow out of the way,” CDOT said in a news release.
CDOT said crews have been assigned to 12-hour shifts working around the clock to get the pass open.
“We have never encountered avalanche slides to this magnitude,” CDOT Area Maintenance Supervisor Vance Kelso said in a prepared statement. “We are remaining optimistic that with cooperative weather and decreasing avalanche danger, we can get this pass opened within the next two weeks.”
CDOT is also reminding the public that the Red Mountain Pass closure applies to vehicle and foot traffic, such as skiers and snowshoers. Anyone caught in the closure area will be reported to the San Juan County or Ouray County sheriff’s offices.
“This closure is for the safety of all,” CDOT Maintenance Foreman Paul Wilson said in a prepared statement. “Our crews need to focus on the task at hand – opening this road to the traveling public and to the residents of our local communities. This work can progress more quickly without the distraction or hazard of anyone else in the work area.”
An earlier version of this story erred in calling this a record year for snowfall.