The state’s No. 1 dangerous pass is ...

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The state’s No. 1 dangerous pass is ...

Herald looks at snow, accidents, switchbacks to make determination
A switchback turn on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass about 18 miles east of Pagosa Springs on U.S Highway 160 is one of the more dangerous areas on the mountain pass with a 200-foot dropoff on the other side of the curve.
Three runaway truck ramps on Wolf Creek Pass offer a bit of safety to truckers on the road.
Marcos Katsos, with the Colorado Department of Transportation Patrol 18, probes the snow at the Avalanche Training Park at summit of Wolf Creek Pass while searching for a buried piece of wood with a beacon on it during avalanche training for plow drivers and Colorado State Patrol officers.
Chavez
Wolf Creek Pass is listed as one of the most dangerous mountain passes in Colorado.
As motorists reach the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, signs warn them of the long steep descent they will encounter.
A switchback turn on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass is one of the more dangerous areas on the mountain pass with a 200-foot dropoff on the other side of the curve.
How we did it

To determine the worst mountain pass in Colorado, the Herald assembled several bits of data into a spreadsheet.
The Colorado Department of Transportation provided a list of 30 passes.
Only year-round passes were counted. (Sorry, Aspenites, Independence Pass doesn’t make the cut.) Raton Pass was not included because half of it is in New Mexico.
CDOT spokeswomen Stacey Stegman, Nancy Shanks and Mindy Crane also tracked down data on elevation, steepness, traffic, accidents from 2009 to 2011, chain-law days in 2011 and closures in 2011.
We counted switchbacks using Google maps and calculated the distance to the nearest town using CDOT data and Google maps.
Real-time snow data is hard to find, so we used the average April snowpack over the last four years from the nearest U.S. Department of Agriculture Snotel station. Sometimes Snotels are right on the pass, but others are several miles off the road.
Chain-law and closure data was incomplete, so we gave each category half the importance as the other variables.
A little bit of computer-assisted data crunching later, and presto: We can call Wolf Creek Pass the most white-knuckle-inducing drive in Colorado.
Joe Hanel

What are the odds?

Worst odds for a wipeout: Monarch Pass – An average of 60 wrecks in the last three years makes this steep and high road between Gunnison and Salida your worst bet. Find better odds on Loveland Pass, which averages more than 100,000 safe trips for every mishap.
Every day is a winding road: Red Mountain Pass – With 15 switchbacks between Silverton and Ouray, the Million Dollar Highway changes directions more often than a politician in an election year.
Bumper-to-bumper blues: Vail Pass – Ski weekend drivers on Vail Pass sometimes feel like they’re stuck behind 10,000 cars. And they’re right. It’s the only pass on our list on an Interstate.
Snow king: Wolf Creek Pass – Wolf Creek Ski Area brags that it has “the most snow in Colorado,” so it’s fitting that the road wins top honors in this category.
Top of the world: Loveland Pass – With a high point on the Continental Divide just under 12,000 feet, it’s no wonder why they built the Eisenhower Tunnel below to connect the mountains to Denver.
Loneliest journey: Cameron and Cochetopa passes – Need to get away from it all? Cameron Pass leaves Fort Collins and climbs into sparsely populated North Park. Cochetopa winds from the even-sparser San Luis Valley to Gunnison.
First gear all the way: Slumgullion Pass – A top grade of 9.4 percent on this road between Lake City and Creede will test any vehicle’s cardiovascular system. As an aside, this is where Alfred Packer’s companions met their unappetizing demise in 1874. But the advent of modern transportation has greatly reduced the risk of cannibalism.

The state’s No. 1 dangerous pass is ...

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A switchback turn on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass about 18 miles east of Pagosa Springs on U.S Highway 160 is one of the more dangerous areas on the mountain pass with a 200-foot dropoff on the other side of the curve.
purchase
Three runaway truck ramps on Wolf Creek Pass offer a bit of safety to truckers on the road.
purchase
Marcos Katsos, with the Colorado Department of Transportation Patrol 18, probes the snow at the Avalanche Training Park at summit of Wolf Creek Pass while searching for a buried piece of wood with a beacon on it during avalanche training for plow drivers and Colorado State Patrol officers.
purchase
Chavez
purchase
Wolf Creek Pass is listed as one of the most dangerous mountain passes in Colorado.
purchase
As motorists reach the summit of Wolf Creek Pass, signs warn them of the long steep descent they will encounter.
purchase
A switchback turn on the west side of Wolf Creek Pass is one of the more dangerous areas on the mountain pass with a 200-foot dropoff on the other side of the curve.
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