Prepare for winter driving situations this vacation trip across Colorado with the help of the Holiday Winter Travel Alert by Ark Valley Voice Staff.
First responders have been hit by other cars driving too recklessly for dangerous winter driving conditions. Drivers, slow down! Photo: Colorado State Patrol.
Snowy weather and bitter cold temperatures expected, particularly in the high-country
It’s the calm (and warm weather) before the storm. The Colorado Department of Transportation has issued a warning for motorists to expect a return of winter weather this weekend. A major storm system is expected to move across the Colorado Rockies Saturday through Monday, bringing the potential for moderate to heavy snow accumulations to the Continental Divide.
According to the National Weather Service, travel impacts due to slick roads could be greatest across central, western, and southern Colorado and the San Juan Mountains on Saturday and Sunday. Snow is also expected across eastern Colorado Saturday night.
Travelers must be prepared for winter driving conditions. If you live here, you know what to do. For those flat-landers not used to snow, or for that matter, mountain driving — be careful. Your trip begins with planning. Check the weather and road conditions by going to COtrip.org before heading out.
Make sure you are equipped for the drive. Tires with at least 3/16″ of an inch of tread are essential. A well-maintained vehicle and an emergency kit with extra clothing, water, food, and other essentials are critical to mountain driving in the winter.
Once you are out on the road, take it slow, avoid sudden stops, and leave plenty of following distance. Give plows space! Give Colorado State Patrol and emergency vehicles space. Stay back three to four car lengths from snowplows. Should the weather get severe, there is the possibility of road closures.
The Colorado Department of Transportation will have road crews out in advance of and throughout the winter storms to clear and treat roads.
A March 2023 accident on I-70 Vail Pass is a reminder to slow down. Image courtesy of CDOT
Expect heavier traffic in many areas of the state over the next week-and-a-half as people travel for the holidays.
Heavy traffic is anticipated on Interstate 70 between Denver and Eagle County during the week following Christmas due to typical increases. To help with traffic flow, road projects along the I-70 mountain corridor will be suspended from Friday, Dec. 22 to early January 2024, after the New Year’s Day holiday.
All other CDOT road projects across the state are required to suspend lane closures by 12:00 noon Friday, Dec. 22 to 6:00 a.m., Tuesday, Dec. 26 and by 12:00 noon Friday, Dec. 29 to 6:00 a.m., Tuesday, Jan. 2. The only work exception is for emergency operations.
I-70 Mountain Express Lanes
An Express Lane in each direction runs adjacent to the general purpose lanes on I-70 from Empire through the Veterans Memorial Tunnels, passing Idaho Springs.
The Mountain Express Lanes will be open on the following days, with the westbound lanes open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and eastbound lanes open from 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., and hours for both lanes to be extended if necessary:
For skiers and snowboarders who prefer another option to travel to the slopes, CDOT is running its Snowstang bus service on weekends and Monday holidays (except Christmas and New Year’s Day), with roundtrip express service to Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain, Loveland Ski Area and Steamboat Springs.
Chain and Traction Laws
When weather conditions warrant, CDOT will activate the Traction Law. If weather conditions deteriorate, CDOT will activate Chain Laws for passenger and commercial vehicles.
Motorists will be alerted to an active Traction or Chain Law by highway signage, COtrip.org and traffic/roadway condition alerts.
For more information on the Traction Law and Passenger Vehicle Chain Law requirements, visit codot.gov/travel/winter-driving/tractionlaw. For more information on the Commercial Vehicle Chain Law requirements, visit codot.gov/travel/colorado-chain-law. To learn more and view helpful tips for winter driving, visit winter.codot.gov.
COtrip.org and COtrip Planner app
Motorists are urged to visit COtrip.org and download the COtrip Planner app ahead of traveling. Motorists are now able to sign up for travel alerts through COtrip.org to see if there are any highway closures or impacts along their favorite routes. The COtrip Planner app also offers a “Trip Planner” feature that allows motorists to map out their routes and receive updates about road closures or incidents along the way. Motorists can turn on the “Hands-Free, Eyes Free” feature to receive these alerts via voice notifications and avoid routes with impacts.
CDOT is offering motorists the opportunity to track CDOT snow plows on the app and website, and can even follow some of the CDOT “celebrity” plows that were named by elementary school students last year. Using the snow plow tracker allows motorists to see where our plows have been and even see what the road conditions look like by viewing the cameras in the area of the plows.
CDOT plows have thousands of miles of roadway to maintain, so motorists are asked to please be patient and are reminded to never pass a plow on the right or while in echelon formation. It is always safer to stay behind a plow.