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Artist Point road closes after record-breaking summer season

Rebecca Sauter of Bellingham takes in the sweeping vista from a ridge above Artist Point in summer 2011.
Rebecca Sauter of Bellingham takes in the sweeping vista from a ridge above Artist Point in summer 2011. The Bellingham Herald

Fresh snowfall in the North Cascades closed the final 2.7 miles of the Mount Baker Highway to Artist Point for the winter on Sunday, Nov. 1 — the latest closing on record and part of a record-breaking summer recreation season in the mountains.

At 172 days, 2015 was the longest spring and summer season on record, according to the state Department of Transportation. The longest season previously was 115 days, the DOT said.

The road was closed Sunday at the Mount Baker Ski Area because some 6 inches of snow fell, with additional accumulations forecast.

Artist Point, at an altitude of some 5,000 feet, offers a 360-degree view that includes Mount Baker, Mount Shuksan, and the high Cascades peaks. It’s also the starting point for several summer hiking trails and a popular tourist destination.

Mount Baker Highway is closed annually after the first significant snowfall because some 30 to 50 feet of snow accumulates during the fall and winter. Clearing efforts — which require skiploaders and dump trucks — usually take six to eight weeks, the DOT said.

A warm winter and low snowpack for 2014-2015 allowed the highway to open for summer on May 14, seven weeks earlier than usual.

Reach Robert Mittendorf at 360-756-2805 or robert.mittendorf@bellinghamherald.com. Tweeting @goMittygo and @BhamMitty.

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