Red Mountain Pass near Telluride is open a week ahead of schedule after multiple avalanches and the bomb cyclone storm last week brought up to 60 feet of snow and debris onto the highway.
“We were dealing with a lot of snow,” said Lisa Schwantes, a Colorado Department of Transportation spokesperson. “We were dealing with several avalanche slides and the snow was filled with debris: rocks and limbs and entire trees.”
CDOT even found an 11-foot-wide boulder.
The pass had been closed for 19 days. Crews have been working 24/7 in 12-hour shifts since the Friday after the storm to clear the 20-mile stretch of highway.
“They hammered this out,” Schwantes said.
They have also been setting off controlled explosions to lower the chance of more avalanches reaching the road. CDOT works with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to pinpoint the possible danger zones.
“Red Mountain has the most significant number of avalanche paths that have potential of hitting the highway, but we're confident that we have brought down the slides that need to come down,” Schwantes said. “Of course, if we get new snowstorms, we will keep an eye on that.”
Schwantes said avalanche mitigation operations will likely continue late into spring, depending on snowfall.
CDOT is advising drivers continue to use caution on US 550. Crews are still clearing snow from the shoulders.
CDOT says the cost of the operations hasn’t been determined