Plowing crews on Going-to-the-Sun Road are now working on clearing The Big Drift. Located just east of 6,647′ Logan Pass, Glacier National Park, MT, this 1-mile part of the road is typically covered in over 40 feet of windblown snow due to its location on the side of a large arête. Sitting just below the Continental Divide, strong westward winds blowing over the ridge deposit a massive amount of snow on this face, and drifts here can sometimes reach up to 100 feet deep in some places and can take up to a month to clean.
With the National Water and Climate Center reporting the snowpack as 34% of the seasonal average, the plowing crews hope to get the road open earlier than they did last year. Due to late winter weather in 2022, the park opened the road on July 13th last year, one of the latest openings the road has ever seen. Thanks to warm temperatures in late April and May this year, crews have been able to get to make quick progress on clearing the road. However, with June typically being the wettest month of the year, there still is some uncertainty about when the road will open.
Crews still have many difficult jobs to get through before the road can open, including clearing avalanches and rockfall. According to GNP lead forecaster Zachary Miller in an interview on KPAX, they have had 24 avalanches pass through the already-cleared road this year. Crews also need to remove any boulders that have fallen on the road and get utilities running again. Furthermore, they still need to reinstall the wooden guardrails and repair stone walls before the road can open.
Currently, Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to Avalanche Creek on the west side and to Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east. 9.3 miles of Going-to-the-Sun Road between Lake McDonald and North Lake McDonald Road will be repaved this year, creating delays and short closures throughout the summer. The National Park Service expects up to a 30-minute wait for visitors in this area and encourages visitors to use the St. Mary’s entrance to avoid delays.