Highway 550 over Red Mountain Pass between Silverton and Ouray has reopened after a 19-day closure due to multiple avalanche threats.
The 20-mile stretch of road, which is also known as the Million Dollar Highway, reopened Friday. The pass closed on March 3.
CDOT said they performed three ground operations and two helicopter missions to mitigate the threat of avalanches along the pass. A total of 21 avalanche slides reached the highway.
After helicopter operations on March 15, CDOT determined the road was safe enough for crews to work. That’s when they started clearing the massive amounts of snow on the highway. The snow was an average of three feet deep, and the areas that avalanches hit were as deep as 60 feet.
CDOT said the work was challenging because the avalanches also brought down rocks, limbs, trees, and other debris–including an 11-foot-wide boulder. Crews of four to five operators have been working 12-hour shifts around the clock for the past week to clear the highway.
CDOT said crews will continue to widen and clear the shoulders of the roadway. Drivers should be aware of changing weather, possible bank slides blocking lanes as the weather warms, and the potential for ice and rockfall over the next several months.