For only the second time since it started keeping records in 2002, the Washington State Department of Transportation opened the the final 2.7 miles of the Mount Baker Highway to Artist Point by the start of summer.
Granted, opened on the first day of summer, but by unlocking the gate at noon on Thursday, WSDOT opened the road eight days earlier than its June 29 opening in 2017.
A June 21 opening is the earliest since the road was opened on May 14 in 2015 — a winter season in which snowfall was so low Ski to Sea had to cancel both skiing legs for the Memorial Day weekend race.
That hasn't been the case this year, as the Mt. Baker Ski Area reported over 840 inches of snow this season. As of May 25, WSDOT reported 21 feet of snow at the center of the Artist Point parking lot, 16 feet at the season gate and 35 feet in the Lake Ann parking lot. WSDOT started clearing the final portion of Highway 542 on May 30.
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According to the release, an average of 660 vehicles per day make the trip up to Artist Point when the road is open to hike, camp or take in the views.
Weather this weekend for the area is expected to be moderately good, though it may not always showcase some of the most beautiful panoramas in the region. The National Weather Service is predicting a 20 percent chance of showers after 11 a.m. Friday and before 11 a.m. Saturday, with highs ranging from 53 Friday to 65 Sunday, when mostly sunny skies are expected before a chance of showers returns that evening.