Barely one month into their winter-clearing work, the road crew on the west side of Glacier National Park has already plowed a large portion of Going-to-the-Sun Road.
The west side crew recently passed The Loop, which is roughly 25 miles from the West Entrance. Plows have encountered near-record snow depths upwards of 15 feet as they venture into the park’s upper reaches, according to park officials.
Crews have plowed down to pavement at Alder Pullout (before Russ Slide, about two miles above the loop), and have made some additional progress below Road Camp, according to Lauren Alley, Glacier National Park spokesperson.
Vehicle traffic is still limited to 11.5 miles of the Sun Road, from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge.
East side crews continue to work in the snow-blanketed Two Medicine and Many Glacier areas, plowing out additional parking areas and picnic areas.
Next week, the east side crew will head to the Going-to-the-Sun Road, plowing above Rising Sun.
The heavy equipment on the west side is approaching the most challenging sections of road to plow. Logan Pass, situated about seven miles from The Loop, is the highest point on the Sun Road at 6,646 feet elevation. Snow depths can climb as high as 80 feet at certain spots, covering all but the roof of the visitor center. Just east of Logan Pass, the so-called Big Drift also presents a difficult task with some of the most snow, as well as hazardous places where water from snowmelt creates potholes and tunnels that can swallow equipment.
Warmer temperatures have helped park plow crews gain ground on the annual road-clearing operations, opening up new opportunities for hikers and bikers to enjoy the scenery, wildlife-viewing opportunities and exercise.
Crews on the east and west sides converge at these two points and tackle them together due to the scope of work. This often requires using hand shovels near the visitor center.
The plows officially began work on the Sun Road on April 6. The process of uncovering the 50-mile road from winter’s wrath typically takes 10 weeks depending on snow depths and spring weather. Due to these conditions, the National Park Service does not establish a set date for when the iconic road fully opens, but it typically occurs in late June or early July.