After record number of days open, road to Artist Point closes for winter

The longest summer season on record for Artist Point access ended Thursday, Oct. 23, when crews shut down the road leading to it as snow began to accumulate.

Mount Baker Highway between the Mount Baker Ski Area and Artist Point had an inch of snow on the ground as of Thursday morning and is expected to get several more as storms roll in.

Artist Point was open for 115 days this season, the most since the state Department of Transportation started keeping track in 2002. The previous mark was 111 days, set in 2004.

Artist Point opened July 1 this year, one of its earliest openings. The latest recorded closure for the highway was Oct. 26 in 2011.

“When the snow starts to accumulate, it’s important that we close the road because conditions can be dangerous,” said Tony Hernandez, WSDOT maintenance superintendent. “We were able to open the road pretty early this year, so there was a lot of opportunity for people to get up there.”

Artist Point closes every year with the first significant snowfall. The road, which reaches an altitude of more than 5,000 feet, gets buried under 30 to 50 feet of snow each winter. Work to clear the road begins in spring and usually takes six to eight weeks

That section of highway will remain closed until next summer. The only year it didn’t open was in 1999 after world-record snowfall in the area.