Monday, November 21, 2016

North Cascades Highway waiting game is over

By Andrea E. Petrich

Twice a year we play a waiting game involving - arguably - the most beautiful stretch of highway in Washington. That waiting game is over for 2016. The State Route 20 North Cascades Highway is closed for the winter.

After temporarily closing the highway on Friday, Nov. 18 due to increased avalanche risk, we reevaluated the conditions on Monday morning and, combined with a forecast of increasingly rough weather later this week, decided to call it a season. The pass opened on April 22 after about a month of work by our crews clearing the roadway. This year's closing is almost a week later than in 2015, when we closed it on Nov. 16.
The SR 20 North Cascades Highway closed for the winter on Monday, Nov. 21.

The SR 20 North Cascades Highway through North Cascade National Park connecting the Skagit River Valley and the Methow Valley offers travelers beautiful blue-green lakes, hairpin turns and jagged peaks during the summer months but some of those beautiful summer features turn dangerous in the winter.
Avalanche chutes more than 2,000 feet long stretch along miles of this highway making it too dangerous to provide a safe highway all year. During the winter we close the highway and let the snow fall and avalanches slide down these steep chutes near Whistler Mountain, Washington Pass and Cutthroat Ridge. As soon as crews safely can, they'll start plowing this stretch of road in the spring. While it isn't safe to keep it open all year (always dependent on weather), we work to keep it open as long as we can and get it open again as early as we can so visitors and travelers can enjoy the National Park and the businesses that operate on both sides of the mountains.

That said, the pass isn't closed to everyone. While licensed motor vehicles can no longer get through, back country skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers and others can use the area year-round. But If you are out for winter adventuring while the highway is covered in snow, please be prepared and know conditions before you go.
While the North Cascades Highway is closed to licensed motor vehicles, skiiers, snowshoers
and others can still use it, but should be cautious heading to the pass.

Want to be in the know during this waiting game? Sign up for our email list – Click on Traffic and Travel Updates -> Mountain Pass Conditions -> North Cascades Highway SR 20 -> and you'll get emails about clearing progress next spring and/or follow us on Twitter for photo updates as well.
So for those who do love it, think snow!

We'll be back with you in a few months as the waiting game begins again, this time for the opening date of this beautiful stretch of National Scenic Highway.

1 comment:

Ari Sigglin said...

"While licensed motor vehicles can no longer get through, back country skiers, snowshoers, snowmobilers and others can use the area year-round."

Don't forget dog mushers! I ran here once last January and plan to more this year, conditions permitting!

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