DENVER – Both the Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado State Patrol are urging drivers heading to the mountains this Presidents’ Day weekend to not only winterize their vehicles but follow speed limits and drive for the conditions on Interstate 70 ahead of wintry weather in the high country.
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“Following a series of crashes that have caused extended closures of the interstate, CDOT and CSP are urging all drivers to redouble efforts to follow best safety practices,” officials from both agencies said in a joint statement Friday. “Driving too fast for conditions has contributed or caused all of the crash closures in the Canyon so far in 2023.”
The three-day holiday weekend has historically drawn some of the highest mountain traffic totals of the year, and the heavy traffic, combined with reckless driving and the work of Mother Nature, can create a chain reaction of events on I-70 along Glenwood Canyon that can force long closures of the highway and delay crash responses and clean-ups, officials said.
“Presidents Day weekend is one of the busiest mountain travel weekends in Colorado,” said Andrew Hogle, CDOT Winter Wise communications manager. “We encourage all motorists to avoid peak travel periods and ensure their tires are prepared for winter conditions. Fewer crashes and delays keep our mountain corridors moving, and most importantly, shows motorists are traveling safely.”
CDOT officials said earlier this week Glenwood Canyon and Vail Pass were two of the most challenging sections of I-70 in the winter and drivers speeding on snow and ice-covered roads with inadequate tires and tread can create crashes and closures on this and other corridors. On I-70 alone, the state loses about $1 million for every hour I-70 is closed.
“It’s no secret that mountain roads can be inherently challenging to navigate in the winter. It’s up to motorists to ensure their vehicles are prepared for winter conditions to give them the best chance to reach their destinations safely,” said Hogle. “Traction Law compliance is crucial. Even when the Traction Law is not active, it’s best to always have safe tires and adequate tread. Winter driving in Colorado can be challenging, but it is possible to travel safely.”
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In their latest forecast discussion, the National Weather Service in Boulder said snowy conditions in the mountains should start late Saturday night in the Park Range and then spread to the rest of the mountains and Summit County toward daybreak Sunday. At least a couple of inches of snow and windy conditions/blowing snow can be expected through Summit County, which will impact ski traffic and I-70 mountain travel conditions, forecasters said.
To prepare for such impacts, both CDOT and CSP said they’ve put in place measures this week to reduce the number of road closures caused by crashes, including lowering speed limits through the Canyon; metering traffic by physically slowing traffic down with snowplows; and increasing speed enforcement.
Both agencies said they’d be meeting with lawmakers Friday to “create a viable plan to mitigate this growing issue,” which might include limiting truck access in the Canyon in certain weather conditions.
“The state is also exploring possible restrictions on trucks using the left lane on difficult segments of I-70, a measure that would require legislation,” officials said.
Those heading to ski areas should be aware that lift tickets are already sold out at A-Basin for both Saturday and Sunday, and ski area officials warned travelers on Friday not to travel to A-Basin expecting to buy a ticket.
“Anticipating the holiday this Saturday and Sunday, we had a very small ticket inventory for both days and that ticket inventory has sold out,” said A-Basin COO Alan Henceforth. “So, again, don't show up expecting to buy tickets. By that I mean any ticket including Friends and Family tickets.”