Brain Post: Glacier National Park’s “Going to The Sun Road” Plowing Operations

Kyler Roush | | BrainsBrains

The Going to The Sun Road is the only road that crosses Glacier National Park and provides the only motorized access to Logan Pass continental divide.  The road opened in 1932 after 11 years of carving 50 miles of roadway into the sides of the surrounding peaks. The road cost $2.5 million dollars to complete and recently received $27.6 million in Federal Stimulus money to rebuild sections of the aging road.

Going to the Sun Road
Going to the Sun Road

Most years the road is open from Mid-June to about Mid-October, conditions permitting.  Every winter the road is hammered by storms and avalanches that routinely bury sections of the road in upwards of 80 feet in places.  Typically in early April crews begin the monumental task of plowing a year’s worth of snow off the road.  Plowing crews face the constant danger of rock slides, avalanches and possibly slipping off the side of the road.  All of this while some days only making 500 feet of forward progress.

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The plowing crews start on each side of the park (East and West Glacier) and are comprised of a bulldozer, excavator and a rotary snow blower capable of removing 4000 tons of snow an hour.  Many sections of the road also have to be plowed several times as further storms bury the road in new slides and spring wet slides and rock slides cascade from above.

GNP plowing 9

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These plowing photos and more can be found on Glacier National Parks Flickr page.

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8 thoughts on “Brain Post: Glacier National Park’s “Going to The Sun Road” Plowing Operations

  1. My ex-husband was doing geophysical mapping across northwestern Montana and Glacier was part of the reseach area. I remember being at the park in early fall when the crews were placing very tall poles (maybe 12-15 ft) with bright orange/red tops along the edge. I asked why and was told that it was to mark the edge so the crews in the spring wouldn’t drive the plow over the side. That was my introduction to living in Montana.

    1. Rob, at this point most of the road is open from both sides of the park, however not in its entirety. Last I saw the pass was scheduled for June 13th.

      To the best of my knowledge skiing is not restricted however the parking is extremely restricted along the road. You would need to park at Logan Pass. Which as of this article the parking lot had over 5 feet of snow on it to be removed.

  2. Interesting article. The extra pics on Glacier’s website are awesome! What a monumental task each spring.

  3. The cojones it would take to push snow while on the edge! Huge thanks to the crews who keep one of of the most beautiful stretches of highway in America open.

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