Widowmaker avalanche path slides during CDOT mitigation work, covering US Highway 6 and delaying A-Basin opening

A person working on avalanche mitigation with the Colorado Department of Transportation walks Tuesday over a slide that crossed U.S. Highway 6 from the Widowmaker path. The slide near Arapahoe Basin Ski Area was triggered by CDOT while the highway was closed.
Courtesy Arapahoe Basin Ski Area

ARAPAHOE BASIN SKI AREA — Areas around Summit County are still dealing with the aftermath of a pair of severe winter storms that hit over the weekend, including along U.S. Highway 6 where an avalanche buried a section of the roadway and shut down access to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area on Tuesday morning.

While locals throughout the county have been eager to take advantage of the fresh powder over the past few days, the considerable snowfall totals dumped throughout the mountains also have resulted in some safety concerns. According to A-Basin, the area has received more than 46 inches since one of the season’s biggest storms hit Friday.

On Tuesday morning, the Colorado Department of Transportation began avalanche mitigation efforts on backcountry chutes near the resort, including The Professor, Widowmaker and Grizzly Bowl. CDOT’s efforts resulted in a slide that covered a section of the roadway in 6-8 feet of snow, effectively closing down the resort for most of the morning.

A-Basin Chief Operating Officer Alan Henceroth addressed the closure in a post on his blog: “Despite the Widowmaker avalanche, we are actually having a beautiful morning. We have the lift, ski patrol and snow cat crews on-site working to open the ski area. While some of our employees are on the other side of the slide, we have enough people here to get the ski area ready.”

The roadway eventually reopened at about 11:30 a.m. — with the help of CDOT and A-Basin front loaders that “punched a nice hole” through the debris — and the resort immediately followed suit by inviting waiting guests to finally make their way to the base area.

To make up for the late start, the ski area decided to keep a couple of the lifts open a little later than usual, including the Lenawee Mountain Lift and the Pallavicini Lift, which operated for about an extra 15-30 minutes respectively.

“While the last few days have been the best storm skiing of the season, (Tuesday) will definitely be the best sunny day skiing of the season,” Henceroth wrote. “… Mother Nature can be a little tough sometimes, but she has delivered a beauty to us (Tuesday).”

According to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, the avalanche danger in the Summit County and Vail region is moderate across elevations.

Summit Daily News Sports & Outdoors Editor Antonio Olivero contributed to this report.

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