Crews have cleared 11/2 miles of pavement on the road to Artist Point, but a lot more work is needed to open the popular trailhead and scenic area. The state Department of Transportation has not set a date yet but expects Artist Point to open in July.
The 2.7 miles at the end of Mount Baker Highway from the upper parking lot of the Mt. Baker Ski Area to Artist Point gains about 800 feet of elevation.
"The snow only gets deeper the farther we climb up the hillside, so it gets more challenging and more difficult as we go," DOT spokesman Dustin Terpening said.
Owing in part to May's mild weather, crews started on June 4 - more than a month earlier than usual. Since then, the weather hasn't been nearly as cooperative.
"May was a bit of a tease really in terms of sunshine and warmth," Terpening said. Since the work began, he said, "we've gotten a little bit of everything, from snow to hail to rain to sunshine."
Last year, wintry weather including significant snowfall lingered until late June, and the state decided to keep Artist Point closed for the summer. The DOT opened only one mile of highway, as far as the Heather Meadows Visitor Center. Vehicles have not been able to access Artist Point since Oct. 25, 2010.
Over the past decade Artist Point, above 5,000 feet in elevation, has closed between late September and late October. Opening dates have ranged from late June to early August.
More information on the snow removal at Artist Point is at this WSDOT webpage.
Reach RALPH SCHWARTZ at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2261.