Photo Gallery: Celebrating Independence

“May was an unreal month,” says Vail, Colo.-based photographer Jeff Cricco, who estimates the state’s high peaks received more than 100 inches throughout the month. And when he drove up Independence Pass, which tops 12,095 feet between Twin Lakes and Aspen, the sight in late May was stunning. “Usually those mountains, even mid-winter, have a lot of rock showing,” Cricco says. “But all you could see were massive faces with no rock. It very much felt like we were driving in Alaska.”

The pass, which closes each winter, opened this year at noon on May 21, and Cricco says there were multiple pow days even after the opening. “I went to the pass opening this year with a high-school buddy, Johnny Lyons,” Cricco adds. “Johnny and I have been skiing and shooting up there for the past 20 years this spring.”

It’s traditions like that, plus the opportunity to ski into July, that keeps skiers like Cricco going back to Independence Pass. “Drop some beers off in the creek at the bottom, drive up to the top of the pass,” Cricco says, “Skin a little in the hot Colorado sun, ski some corn under the cool Colorado blue sky.”

Here’s a gallery of he and friends doing just that.


Whit Boucher, of Aspen, crests the Continental Divide on State Highway 82 at 12,095 feet on June 8. [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Whit Boucher and Colter J Hinchliffe making their way across a ridge on a classic corn day. “I like the pass because of the ease of access, the tradition of it,” Cricco says. “It’s something I like to do every spring and fall.” [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Colter Hinchliffe celebrates spring’s arrival. “Up until the first week of June,” Cricco says, “the classic corn cycle was hit or miss because of the constant fresh snow.” [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Nelson Riley, of Aspen, deals with the obligatory creek crossing that is customary on all Independence Pass adventures. [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Hinchliffe drops off a line on the Aspen side of Independence Pass on May 29, 2015. [Photo] Jeff Cricco


The pass opened on schedule this year, at exactly 12 p.m. on May 21. “We were waiting on the Twin Lakes side,” Cricco says. “I was told by a CDOT employee that the gate would be opened on the Aspen side simultaneously with the gate on the Twin Lakes side. However, the gate on the Twin Lakes side is closer to the top.” [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Colter Hinchliffe, Jason Gregg, Brad Unglert and Nelson Riley ascend an exposed face above Independence Pass on May 29. They skied the line to looker’s right of the bootpack. [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Colter Hinchliffe had a busy spring, including notching a first descent off Colorado’s Capitol Peak with friends and descending Grizzly Peak, a classic accessed off Independence Pass. This shot was taken above the Grizzly Reservoir on May 29. [Photo] Jeff Cricco


Johnny Lyons, Cricco’s longtime Independence Pass partner and Vail-based photographer Scott Cramer toast to good things to come while camped at Twin Lakes the night before the pass opened. [Photo] Jeff Cricco

For more of Jeff Cricco’s work, find him on Facebook, Instagram and at

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