Coal Bank, Molas and Red Mountain passes opened Saturday after winter storms dropped feet of snow the past few days in the San Juan Mountains.
Colorado Department of Transportation reopened Red Mountain Pass around 2 p.m. after three state transit crews triggered more than a dozen avalanches on U.S. Highway 550 between Purgatory Resort and Ouray, said spokeswoman Lisa Schwantes.
A driver got stuck on Red Mountain Pass on Friday in 2½ to 3 feet of snow caused by a snow slide. CDOT closed the pass within an hour. Coal Bank and Molas passes closed around 6:30 a.m. Saturday for scheduled avalanche mitigation, Schwantes said.
More than 20 inches of snow fell in parts of the southern San Juan Mountains in the past 48 hours, said Megan Stackhouse, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Junction.
CDOT crews used case charges and howitzer cannons to trigger avalanches that dumped 5 to 8 feet of snow onto U.S. Highway 550, Schwantes said.
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center on Saturday morning reported “considerable” danger for avalanche slides in the southern and northern San Juan Mountains. The center predicts “dangerous avalanche conditions.”
On The Snow reported that, in the past 72 hours, Silverton Mountain got 40 inches of snow, Wolf Creek Ski Area got 31 inches and Purgatory Resort got 22 inches – the most snow to fall at any Colorado resort in the past three days.
Periodic snow showers are expected Saturday afternoon before moisture moves out of Southwest Colorado and cold moves in, Stackhouse said. Overnight temperatures could dip into the single digits, she said.
Local law enforcement reported crashes overnight Friday because of slick road conditions – no injuries were reported.
The next best chance for snow will come in early 2020, Stackhouse said. The system may favor the northern San Juan Mountains – it is too early to predict anticipated snowfall.