WINTHROP — A telltale sign of spring in the Pacific Northwest is the clearing of State Route 20 North Cascades Highway between the Methow and Skagit valleys, and that work for this year is scheduled to begin April 5.
Depending on weather conditions, reopening usually takes about four to six weeks.
The pass closes every year in late November or early December based on snow conditions. Dozens of avalanche paths cross the highway, making it too dangerous to keep open through the winter. Maintenance and avalanche control crews assess snow levels and avalanche conditions in early spring to determine a date to begin reopening work.
This year’s snow levels were slightly higher than average. This presents a potential safety hazard for reopening crews, so allowing for additional melt-off makes conditions more manageable and safer for workers.
Highway maintenance crews on both the east and west sides of the closure will work to remove about seven feet of snow from the highway.
Once the roadway is cleared, crews will repair guardrail, signs, and pavement damaged by snow slides during the closure.
Hikers, skiers, snowmobilers and other recreationalists are still able to use the highway Fridays through Sundays once clearing begins. However, the roadway behind the closure points will be closed to recreationalists while crews are clearing Mondays through Thursdays. Those planning to recreate behind the highway closure points should be aware of and prepared for potential avalanche danger.