Independence Pass opening delayed again
pitkin county correspondent
ASPEN ” It appears Aspen will spend yet another weekend cut off from its eastern neighbors. Independence Pass is now tentatively scheduled to open the weekend of June 7, Colorado Department of Transportation spokesman Bob Wilson said. CDOT previously had expected the pass to re-open Thursday.
Traditionally, the snowbound pass has opened on Memorial Day weekend. Wilson said the last 2 miles or more of road on the Aspen side below the top of the pass has “extremely hard” snow this year.
“It’s going to take quite a bit of work to get that re-opened,” he said, predicting that crews may need to work through this weekend clearing snow.
Meanwhile, some tourists heading to Aspen from the east continue to drive as far as Twin Lakes, expecting the pass to be open, only to be denied.
Warren Klug, general manager at the Aspen Square Condominium Hotel, said he’d just had a party arrive a day late because they hadn’t heard the pass was still closed. The visitors “gave up” and spent the night in Leadville after turning around at Twin Lakes.
June Hervert, owner of the Twin Lakes General Store, has been the one turning around many of the tourists around.
“They’re definitely not happy,” she said.
She explained that many of them have GPS units on their rental cars that tell them to take Independence Pass.
“The sign is not big enough at the Copper Mountain exit,” argued Klug.
But hearing of the tourist woes, Wilson said CDOT would use its existing electronic highway signage to catch the attention of drivers who might be headed over the pass.
“It’s true the (existing) signage is minimal,” he said, explaining that generally many tourists know the pass will be closed until Memorial Day weekend.
But apart from having inconvenienced guests, most Aspen businesses did not think the closure would affect their business.
“My guess is that it might have a very small impact on last-minute, drive-in business,” said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, a central reservations firm.
Advanced bookings for the upcoming weekend are already stronger than they were last year.
Klug did not expect the closure to impact business at the Aspen Square. Neither did Cindi Kirkwood at The Gant.
Twin Lakes business owners sang a different tune, however.
“I don’t think I would have even needed to open on Monday ” it was that quiet,” Hervert said.
Tom Driemeyer, owner at Inn of the Black Wolf in Twin Lakes, said the closure had cut his business by about 75 percent.
Last weekend, he held his “opening of the pass” party, even though the pass didn’t open. Instead of the 300 or 400 tourists he was hoping for, he had about 100 locals.
Hearing that the pass would be closed for another weekend, he planned to order less food and keep fewer staff members around.
“I guess,” he said, “we’ll be taking the weekend off, then.”
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