The heavy snows of the past few storms mean the time has come for the annual North Cascades Highway closure in Washington state. WSDOT announced the closure Monday as snow has filled the avalanche chutes that line the highway, which pose a safety risk for drivers and road crews.

The seasonal avalanche closure currently begins at the Ross Dam Trailhead on the west side and Silver Star Gate 37 miles away on the east side. As the snow accumulates this fall and winter, the closure will extend a few more miles in each direction.

The earliest closure was on Oct. 17 in 2003, and the latest “closure” was in 1976 when so little snow fell the pass didn’t need to close that winter. That is the only time that’s occurred since 1972. In the winter of 1989, it didn’t close until Jan. 3, 1990.

Hikers, skiers, snowmobilers and other recreationalists can access the closed portion of highway during the winter season. Users should park in designated parking areas to allow plow drivers the space they need to clear snow around the closed stretch’s access gates.

Sign greets travelers to the North Cascades Highway (WSDOT image)

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