GLACIER NATIONAL PARK - Snowplow crews working on Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park are making great progress.
They have made it over Logan Pass and are working on the Big Drift.
Plowing is going much faster this year than last year due to the warm spring we’ve had but the opening day for the road is still unknown.
“Well, that's only a breakdown and a snowstorm away. I mean, I don't like to put estimations out, but I'd say we're on pretty good track for beating last year,” said GNP Roads Crew Supervisor Brian Paul.
After plowing, crews work along the edge of the cliff to reinstall 400 guard rails — each requiring eight bolts — and complete masonry work to repair the rock guard rail. To stay safe at the high elevation the crews are harnessed and attached to a nearby truck.
“We're just doing our hardest to wrap up. We still have a lot of work to do. It's not just snow removal. We still have a lot of rocks to remove a lot of guard rail to put in utilities to get up and running before we open the road, so it's safe for the public,” said Paul.
At the beginning of the snow forecast season, the snowpack started at about 80% of the period record average and is currently at about 44%.
“That lower snowpack to start and the rapid melt that we saw near the end of April and early May, specifically during that big warm snap, really dropped our snowpack and allowed the road crews to move quickly up the road. But in the summer, typically June is our wettest month of the year, and we hope it pulls through for the sake of wildfires,” said Zachary Miller, who is the USGS Physical Scientist and Lead Forecaster for Going-to-the-Sun Road.
Avalanche activity was also lower than normal with only 43 observed avalanches along the road.
“Twenty-four of those avalanches actually hit the road after it had been plowed and that required about 45 minutes for the snow plowing, which is low compared to what we normally see. We did have one major cycle that the majority of these avalanches happened and we saw a lot of large-size avalanches during that time," Miller said. "That was late April During the warm-ups. We saw some very large avalanches come down and the road crew was not working that week because the hazard was really really high."
The iconic Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to vehicles to the Avalanche area and for hikers and bikers to The Loop. The latest on road conditions in Glacier National Park can be found here.
Vehicle reservations will be required in West Glacier beginning on May 26, 2023, and on July 1, 2023, in East Glacier.