4000 tons of rock buried Dam Road. What now? 

On a bluebird April day in Summit County, three men in hard hats and harnesses are dangling from ropes anchored nearly 60 feet above Dam Road. 

Below them is an estimated 4,000 tons of jagged rock. The pile is at least 10 feet deep. Many are the size of couches, weighing over one ton each. Some are as big as sedans. Those weigh up to 15 tons. 

“This is definitely one of the bigger ones (rockslides) that I’ve seen,” says Jake, crew lead with Apex Rockfall Mitigation of Grand Junction.  

Why, then, are they dangling from a precarious rock face, picking at what’s left of the cliff with metal rods as long as a grown man’s leg? 

“We’re looking for rocks that have some pretty significant cracks,” Jake says. “But we’re not really digging too much because sometimes that can cause more problems than what it’s worth.” 

One of his crew unleashes a volley of small stones, followed by rocks the size of basketballs. They tumble to the ground, but Jake doesn’t flinch. He’s protected by the same 60-foot-tall mesh netting that shields cars driving along Dam Road – when it’s open. 

Dam Road has been closed since 6 a.m. Easter Sunday, when the cliff face broke free.  

Miraculously, no cars were on the road that morning. 

“This is more than just a rockslide,” Dan Mancuso with Summit County road and bridge says. “We call this a ‘rock burst’ because the face of the cliff burst. I’ve got a senior employee who’s been here 30 years, and he says that this is the most he’s ever seen in the 30 years he’s been here.” 

Jake and his crew could spend two to three days removing hazards and reinforcing the mesh.  

After that, the heavy machinery moves in.  

“Right now, we’re estimating possibly 200 dump-truck loads of rock,” says Brent Spahn, a former CDOT employee, and now Summit County public works director. “Fortunately, we’re getting support from the local towns around here: Dillon, Silverthorne, Frisco have all offered some trucks.” 

But even with all that help, it could be another two weeks before Dam Road reopens. 

“We want to get this open just as much as everyone else does,” Spahn says. “We use this road too.”