Potential preemptive Glenwood Canyon closures this summer worry Silverthorne business owners

Detour routes traffic through Silverthorne to bypass mudslide-prone areas, but business owners aren't happy

A helicopter takes off from Interstate 70 among the scorched earth around the highway from the Grizzly Creek Fire outside of Glenwood Springs on Thursday, August 20, 2020. Monsoon rains predicted for the weekend of June 26, 2022 may cause more mudslides on I-70, meaning more traffic in Silverthorne and Dillon.
Kelsey Brunner / The Aspen Times

With the prediction of monsoonal rains this weekend and the history of Glenwood Canyon mudslides closing Interstate 70, it’s possible that there may again be hordes of traffic flowing through Silverthorne and Dillon this summer.

Due to the Grizzly Creek Fire that happened in Glenwood Canyon in August of 2020, a large burn scar caused multiple mudslides during the summer of 2021.

This forced western travelers to get off of I-70 at Exit 205 in Silverthorne and Dillon so they could take Colorado Highway 9 as a detour, and vice versa with east-flowing traffic.

Earlier this year, state and I-70 corridor officials gathered to make a plan to preemptively close I-70 through Glenwood Canyon when heavy rain events are forecast to hit the area. The plans call for more detours of Front Range traffic to head up Highway 9 to bypass the canyon.

While the influx of people in Silverthorne may seem beneficial, some businesses experienced negative effects.

Tim Applegate, the managing partner of the Italian restaurant Sauce on the Blue at 358 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne, said the Glenwood Canyon closures were terrible for business.

“It’s horrendous because you can’t make a left or a right hand turn because of all this traffic coming in,” he said. “You would think it helps because it puts more people by us — and maybe it does help a little bit — but it’s more of a hindrance than a help.” 

Not only are out-of-towners less likely to stop because they are frustrated that their two hour drive turns into four, but Applegate said Summit County locals are also less likely to leave their homes for dinner due to the traffic. 

Erin Young — the owner of Red Buffalo Coffee and Tea, located right down the sidewalk from Sauce on the Blue — said she has also experienced frustration with the traffic jams, but for different reasons.

Because Red Buffalo is “less of a sit down” restaurant compared to Sauce on the Blue, Young said she didn’t lose customers during the I-70 closures. However, she did encounter instances where her delivery truck couldn’t get to Red Buffalo on schedule. 

This meant Young was forced to buy her materials from Target or City Market. But even then, she said, some of her necessary materials were not available, like disposable cups or bulk coffee.

“We might either have to run out of them or would have to substitute with something else, and that’s assuming that Target or City Market would have those in stock,” she said, adding that stores can sell out of the substitutions due to the rush of shoppers stuck in town.

Another unexpected impact Young mentioned was the toll it takes on her employees.

“It doesn’t help the mental health of our front end service workers who have to bear the front end of telling a customer we’re out of stock,” she said.

David Boyd, the Public Affairs Officer for the White River National Forest, said that monsoon rains could very likely cause more I-70 closures.

However, Boyd also called that the summer of 2021 very rare because there where many instances when high amounts of rain came in very short amounts of time.

“It was a 500-year event,” he said. 

Boyd reported that while the recovery of the Grizzly Creek burn scar is going well, the lack of vegetation is still a problem that may cause rains to rush down the slopes with “a tremendous amount of energy,” he said.

More information about I-70 closures and updates on the conditions of Glenwood Canyon can be found at

Boyd said CDOT will be taking the rains very seriously. “

They’re watching the Grizzly Burn scare intensely,” Boyd said.

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