NATIONAL PARKS -- The party's almost over for bicyclists who've had long stretches of the North Cascades Highway all to themselves as road crews have been clearing snow from State Route 20 west of Winthrop.
The Washington Department of Transportation plans to reopen the North Cascades Highway to traffic at noon on Thursday.
That’s just in time for Winthrop’s ’49er Days, an annual celebration that includes a parade and rendezvous of packers who guide visitors using horses and mules, said Jeff Adamson, spokesman for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The stretch of Highway 20 from Mazama to Newhalem closes every winter due to avalanche danger. This winter, it closed for the season on Dec. 3. It generally reopens sometime in April or May, although it has opened a few years in March, and once as late as June 14.
Adamson said even if weather conditions veer from the forecast and avalanche conditions arise, only the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes still pose any danger. A helicopter crew used explosives last week to send most of the snow down 10 slides, he said.
Crews still have about 3.5 miles of highway to plow and are fixing guardrails and widening the shoulders, he said.
Snow at the summit of Washington Pass measured almost 10 feet. Snow at the Liberty Bell avalanche chute averaged 35 feet deep.