Vice President Mike Pence visiting Aspen area through Jan. 1
A motorcade ferrying Vice President Mike Pence to a residence near Snowmass Village on Tuesday sparked traffic delays from Eagle to the Roaring Fork Valley because of the high level of security that comes with being second-in-command to Donald Trump.
Pence and his wife, Karen Sue, are visiting the area with a scheduled departure Monday from either Aspen-Pitkin County Airport or Eagle County Airport near Vail, according to a Dec. 24-dated Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) from the Federal Aviation Administration. The Pence group landed at the Eagle County Airport around noon.
With a helicopter well ahead of the motorcade as it traveled west on Interstate 70, the chopper circled Glenwood Springs twice as the motorcade emerged from the canyon just before 2 p.m. Instead of going over the new Grand Avenue Bridge to Highway 82, the vice president’s group went to West Glenwood then up Midland Avenue to the 27th Street bridge south of town, according to observers.
Local law enforcement was notified of Pence’s visit, including Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo. His office was on standby to provide any aid needed by the Secret Service, which said in an email to The Aspen Times that it “does not discuss itineraries.”
Efforts to reach the White House for the purpose of Pence’s visit were unsuccessful.
DiSalvo and his predecessor’s office also have aided the Secret Service with visits from both Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Obama family and the Trump family (not including the president), who vacationed in Aspen for spring break in March.
“We are doing what we always do,” DiSalvo said Tuesday. “I do consider the Secret Service another law enforcement agency, and who they protect doesn’t matter. We’re helping the Secret Service, not the vice president.”
According to the NOTAM from the Federal Aviation Administration, temporary flight restrictions are in place over Eagle County Airport as well as an area of 3 nautical miles over where Pence is staying off Owl Creek Road until his Jan. 1 scheduled departure date.
“Pursuant to 49 USC 40103(B), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) classifies the airspace defined in this NOTAM as ‘national defense airspace,'” reads the NOTAM. “Pilots who do not adhere to the following procedures may be intercepted, detained and interviewed by law enforcement/security personnel.”
In the airspace above where Pence is staying, the NOTAM notes that allowed aircraft include those operations for law enforcement, firefighting, ambulance missions and safety or emergency missions. Additionally, aircraft arriving or departing from the Aspen and Eagle airports is permitted during that time.
Aircraft allowed in the space also must squawk an “(air traffic control) discrete code at all times while in the (temporary flight restrictions) and must remain in two-way radio communications with (air traffic control).”
The same notice states, without identifying Pence, that the vice president will depart from either the Aspen or Eagle airport at 3:15 p.m. Monday.
Highway 82 commuters and motorists might want to adjust their travel plans that day due to the potential motorcade headed toward Glenwood Springs.
Basalt resident Sid Schneider got a good taste of it Tuesday when he tried to leave City Market in El Jebel.
“I couldn’t get on the highway,” he said, not knowing at the time he was being held up by the vice-presidential convoy. “Police cars were blocking the highway, so I went around Willits Lane to another stop and the traffic was blocked off there. So I just sat there for maybe 10 or 15 minutes.
“Finally a state police car came flying up the highway. They were just cruising, one after another. There’s a cluster of them, and then there’s this big black SUV and police lights going on. And there’s a tow truck and an ambulance with them. They were ready for anything.”
Pence’s local stay comes after he made a surprise visit last week to American troops in Afghanistan.
“I believe victory is closer than ever before,” Pence reportedly said at the time.
Last week also marked a legislative win for the Trump administration with the passage of its tax bill. In turn, Pence heralded President Trump as signing “more bills rolling back federal red tape than any president in American history.”
Weather forecasters are expecting several inches of snow to blanket the Yampa Valley this weekend as two winter storms move into the area.