County crews working to clear Kebler and Cottonwood Passes

“It is difficult to say if we are going to hit our schedule for Memorial Day”

By Katherine Nettles

While Gunnison County has a long tradition of opening up Kebler Pass and Cottonwood Pass for vehicular traffic on Memorial Day weekend, the deep snowpack from this winter and spring are not making things easy. According to Gunnison County public works director Martin Schmidt, crews are hard at work to clear the passes, but the roadways still need time to dry out and much of that depends on weather conditions and crew progress over the next few days. Public works will determine by early next week whether the roadways can be ready for traffic by Memorial Day weekend. 

“It is difficult to say if we are going to hit our schedule for Memorial Day,” advised Schmidt. He said that as of Tuesday, May 16 his crews had plowed to the 11-mile marker on Cottonwood, which is where they typically start using a snowblower. “This is more or less ‘on schedule’,” he said. “The [aspect] of the snowblower relies on many variables, but we are hopeful that we can be open by Memorial Day weekend.” 

Schmidt said that on Tuesday they were also starting to plow Kebler and expected to get as far as Splains Gulch or the “Y,” where Kebler Road forks off toward Lake Irwin. 

“We are unsure of the depth at the top and in the trees by the Bullion King Bridge, so we don’t know how long it will take to get all the way over.” The last time county officials measured on May 2, the deepest areas measured between seven and nine feet with the majority of the pass at between three to five feet. Schmidt said they were estimating the amount of melt-off since then (with help from a few locals) to predict the remaining snow at around three to seven feet deep.

“Once we get all the way through, we typically keep it closed until it dries enough to not cause major road damage when traffic gets on it,” said Schmidt.

He estimated that by the end of this week, “We should have a better feeling for how much work still remains to be done.”

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