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Fri., May 6, 2011, 11:34 a.m.

Snow still delaying activities at Glacier Park

In the golden light of sunrise, aspens stand stark against St. Mary Lake
in mid May before the leaves on most trees have had a chance to burst
from their buds in Glacier National Park.  (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
In the golden light of sunrise, aspens stand stark against St. Mary Lake in mid May before the leaves on most trees have had a chance to burst from their buds in Glacier National Park. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

NATIONAL PARKS -- Record or near record snowpack in the Glacier Park region is delaying the opening of some facilities, although the conditions keep the crowd away for people who like to have choice natural real estate to themselves.

Click here for photos, video clips and plowing status.

Information on current park road conditions is available on the park’s road status website.

Read on for this morning's update on snow, facilities and roads from Glacier Park officials.

Due to an unusually large, lingering snowpack and cool temperatures, Glacier National Park officials announced delays in opening some east side campgrounds and the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn. The opening date of the Many Glacier, Cutbank and Two Medicine Campgrounds will be June 10th, instead of the usual Memorial Day Weekend opening date. The Swiftcurrent Motor Inn opening will also be delayed until June 10th rather than the previously anticipated June 3rd. Visitors with reservations at Swiftcurrent Motor Inn will be accommodated at other Glacier Park, Inc.

properties. Park crews are working diligently to get facilities uncovered, water and wastewater services turned on, utilities repaired and roads dug out.

Although May has shown some signs of spring, weather stations at West Glacier, East Glacier and Saint Mary all recorded near record or record precipitation amounts for April. US Geological Survey snow surveys measured 88 inches of snow on the ground at the 5,900 foot level near Siyeh Bend on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (Sun Road) in the end of March. The survey was repeated a month later and 106 inches of snow was measured at the same location. Snow depth data has been collected since 1993, and the highest recorded depth was 166 inches at the 7,000 foot level in the end of April 2011.

Plowing continued on both sides of the park this week. On the west side, crews have completed initial plowing of the Sun Road approximately a mile and half past the Loop. The crews are encountering snow depths from 6 to 20 feet deep. Wednesday afternoon, snow slides crossed the Sun Road in the crew’s work zone leaving avalanche debris three to seven feet deep. The vehicle gate remains closed at Lake McDonald Lodge, however, the Camas Road is open for vehicle travel. There are no hiker/biker restrictions on the Sun Road this weekend, however avalanche danger persists beyond Avalanche Creek, and hikers/bikers are urged to pay attention to the hazardous conditions. Visitors are also reminded that when park roads are closed to vehicle use, all pets are prohibited on roadways beyond the vehicle closures.

On the east side, plow crews are working in Two Medicine and Many Glacier valleys. In Two Medicine, the road is open to Running Eagle Falls and the plow crews have cleared beyond the Ranger Station into the campground.

Crews encountered drifts around 25 feet in the campground. In the Many Glacier Valley, the road remains closed at the park boundary. Initial plowing has been completed to the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and around the cabin loop, however significant melting of the snowpack is necessary in order to open the road for the season. In the Saint Mary Valley, the Sun Road remains open to Rising Sun and crews have plowed to the Rising Sun Boat Dock. HK Contractors, the prime contractor for the Going-to-the-Sun Road Rehabilitation project, will begin plowing beyond Rising Sun to assist park plow crews on Monday May 9th. There are no restrictions on hikers/bikers/skiers on any of the east side roads this weekend.

Avalanche danger is still a concern throughout the park. Visitors are encouraged to have significant knowledge of traveling in avalanche terrain and take the same precautions as one would during the winter. Avalanche conditions change on a constant basis and visitors are reminded to stay alert to changing conditions.

This page is updated as conditions change. Travelers may also call park headquarters at 406-888-7800 for current road and weather conditions.

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Outdoors blog

Rich Landers writes and photographs stories and columns for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including Outdoors feature sections on Sunday and Thursday.