Figuring Mount Baker won’t get a big dump of snow this spring, the state Department of Transportation started plowing the road to Artist Point on Monday, April 20. The popular destination at the end of Mount Baker Highway should be open by early May, DOT officials said.
That would be almost two months ahead of the earliest opening on record: June 29, 2005.
“You know it’s been a weird winter when people call in early February asking if we’re going to open the road to Artist Point early,” DOT spokesman Tom Pearce wrote Thursday, April 23, on the WSDOT Blog.
Artist Point is a popular viewpoint with 360-degree views of Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker. It is also the starting point for a number of high alpine hikes.
More than 5,000 feet above sea level, the parking lot at Artist Point is typically under 30 to 50 feet of snow by May. When crews started bulldozing snow off the lot last week, they found just 15 feet of snow. The highway was bare of snow at the closed gate, just above the Mt. Baker Ski Area entrance.
The 2.7-mile stretch of highway between the gate and Artist Point should take about a week to clear, Pearce said.
“We began to seriously consider an early opening several weeks ago,” Pearce wrote in the blog post. “Even with the low snow totals in February, we’ve seen cases like last year where hundreds of inches of snow fell in March. We didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves this year. As it became obvious the big snow dump wasn’t coming, we stepped up our planning.”
After the ski area announced that Sunday, April 19, would be its last day of the season, road-clearing crews could begin in earnest, Pearce said.
The road to Artist Point is usually open from mid- to late July until the first substantial snowfall of the year in late September or early October. Last year it opened on July 1.
Keep updated on snow removal at Artist Point at wsdot.wa.gov/Northwest/Baker/ArtistPoint.