Glacier Park Plows Make Quick Progress Past The Loop

Road crew has encountered snow depths upwards of 10 feet in certain chutes

By DILLON TABISH for the Flathead Beacon

Barely two weeks 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 crew recently passed The Loop, which is roughly 25 miles from the West Entrance. Plows have encountered snow depths upwards of 10 feet in certain chutes, according to the latest update from the National Park Service. Vehicle traffic is still limited to 11.5 miles of the Sun Road, from the West Entrance to Lake McDonald Lodge.

On the east side of the park, the crew has plowed roughly six miles, from St. Mary to Rising Sun. Vehicle traffic is limited at Hudson Bay Road Junction east of the St. Mary entrance.

Glacier Park Winter 2017

The heavy equipment 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.

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 1. 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.