Work on Cottonwood Pass coordinated with Chaffee County
This year’s impressive snowfall has left an equally impressive mess on the area’s passes, and Tuesday the county started to clear a way through.
The effort to clear snow from Cottonwood Pass is being coordinated with crews from Chaffee County who are working toward the top from the east side, while Gunnison County crews worked from the west. At the same time, county resources are working to open Kebler Pass. The hope is to have them both open for Ride the Rockies, starting June 15.
The county has been working with Ride the Rockies organizers, who hope the bicycle tour can use Cottonwood Pass when riders travel from Crested Butte to Buena Vista on June 20.
By using the pass, around 2,000 bikers will travel through the area and in some cases spend the night, while a closed pass would mean those riders would bypass much of the northern Gunnison River valley.
“I did mobilize equipment to Cottonwood Pass today, and Chaffee County did as well, and whether or not a link is made between the two counties will depend largely on” the conditions on the east side, says Gunnison County assistant manager Marlene Crosby.
Crosby had been holding off on using the county’s equipment and manpower to clear the passes as the county braced for high water on area rivers. With that danger subsiding, the county has now devoted equipment to the task of clearing the passes.
Crosby said on the far side of Cottonwood Pass there is an avalanche area that, if there is enough snow, could release and travel as far as the road. Work was waiting to begin until those conditions were evaluated Tuesday.
“If Chaffee County gets there and that huge cornice has not slid, they don’t want to be putting that equipment or personnel in danger. So we don’t know yet what the prognosis is, but we are moving in that direction,” says Crosby.
For such road clearing operations, the county’s equipment includes a front-end loader, a road grader and a bulldozer.