Glacier National Park snowplow crews have reached Logan Pass, a full month earlier than last year. With the region seeing a warm, dry spring and below average snowpack, Park plows in early May pioneered the first cuts up the Going-to-the-Sun Road to the pass as a heavy, wet snow fell.
The plows are down to the pavement just below the pass at Oberlin Bend. Snow depths at Oberlin Bend ranged from 10 to 20 feet.
Crew foreman Stan Stahr said snow depths were about average — for June, not May. Currently the snowpack is just 71 percent of average.
On the east side, crews were just below the Big Drift, a deep drift of snow just east of Logan Pass. Plow crews generally meet at the drift. Once they punch through the drift, it takes about two weeks to get the road fully opened, Park spokeswoman Denise Germann said.
Barring a huge spring snowstorms, Logan Pass will likely open to motor vehicles well before last year’s date of July 2, which was one of the latest on record. The latest opening ever was July 12 in 2011.
The last time the Sun Road opened in May was in 2005, another year with a low snowpack and a warm spring. The Sun Road opened May 22 that year.
Because of road construction, the Pass won’t open any sooner than June 19 from the east side. The west side could open much sooner, but Germann said the visitor center won’t be open, and there will be no running water for toilets.
Park road crews still have a lot of work to do to get the road ready. They need to install about 400 removable guardrails along the road and clean up debris on the highway.
The Sun Road weathered well with the lack of snow. There was no major avalanche damage, unlike some years when avalanches took out entire lanes of the road.