Avalanches Sweep Over Sun Road, Hampering Plow Efforts

Snow slides up to 200-feet long and 15-feet deep hit Glacier Park’s main road

By Beacon Staff

Glacier National Park snow plowing crews continue to clear the Going-to-the-Sun Road after a recent storm brought heavy rain and at least 36 inches of new snow near the Continental Divide.

Plowing was slowed, and in some cases stopped last week, due to inclement weather and low visibility, park officials say.

West-side plowing activities resumed June 22 and road crews punched through 16 new snow slides to The Slopes area on the Sun Road. At least 24 new snow slides on the road were observed by park staff, with more anticipated to be encountered as snow plowing progress continues, spokesperson Denise Germann said.

Snow plowing activity continues this week with crews working on the west and east side of the park. Officials originally hoped to open the west side of the Sun Road by June 20, but an opening date is yet to be determined as crews play catchup.

Road crews have encountered snow slides up to 200-feet long and 15-feet deep on the road. In addition to snow removal, crews will work to clear the road of rock, mud, and wood debris. Many areas of the road that were once clear of snow now need to be plowed again. A snow slide destroyed at least eight segments of guard rail near Haystack Creek.

Limited shuttle service on the west side of the park is anticipated to begin June 26 in an effort to allow for increased visitor access of the Sun Road. Shuttle service will be available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week beginning June 26. Shuttles will depart from the Apgar Visitor Center and travel directly to The Loop, with service available approximately every 20 minutes.

No additional stops will be available between the Apgar Visitor Center and the Loop. Visitors must board shuttles at the Apgar Visitor Center if they wish to travel to the Loop by shuttle. No shuttle service will be available on the east side of the park at this time. Additional west-side shuttle stops may be available beginning July 1.

Full shuttle service is not anticipated to begin until access to Logan Pass is available. On the west side of the park, the Sun Road is currently open to vehicle travel from the West Entrance to Avalanche.

Hiker-biker access is available from Avalanche to the Loop while road crews are working. For current hiker-biker access restrictions please visit the park’s road status webpage. Hikers and bikers should always be alert for possible falling rock and avalanche danger. Water levels appear to have stabilized across the park, decreasing the concern of flooding.

The St. Mary Campground is now open with limited sites available. Access to Kintla Lake via the Inside North Fork Road is available. The Goat Haunt area is now open and boat tours are operating regularly.

Park personnel continue to monitor other areas of the park as temperatures rise and snowmelt continues.

Visitors are reminded to use caution around water and snow. Streams and rivers in the park are cold, high, and fast moving. Hikers visiting some of the higher elevations in the park should expect snow, and be prepared for changing weather conditions.

“It is important to know the terrain you are about to hike or climb, and carry the appropriate equipment,” Germann said.

Visitors should know how to travel in such challenging conditions, including knowing how to use crampons and an ice axe, she said. It is also recommended to have extra clothing, appropriate maps, first-aid kit, water, and food.

“Always communicate to someone your planned route of travel and your expected time of return,” Germann said.

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