Major snowfall forecast for Beartooth Highway during clearing efforts

Posted at 3:55 PM, May 11, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:00:40-04

As we head towards Memorial Day weekend, we draw closer to the annual tradition of the opening of the scenic Beartooth Highway.

On Friday of Memorial Day weekend, the Montana Department of Transportation aims to get traffic flowing through the high altitude pass that runs from Red Lodge to Cooke City.

The efforts that go into clearing the remote road are immense and include hours of snow plow work. So what happens when another foot of snow is added to the already mountainous snow drifts that crews are working to clear? The forecast for this weekend calls for exactly that scenario. MTN reached out to the Montana Department of Transportation to get the scoop (or plow, as the case may be) on the ongoing pass clearing efforts.

Tom Tilzey, the regional maintenance chief and supervisor of the highway clearing efforts, summed it up pretty simply, saying additional snowfall has little impact on the clearing efforts and will likely not hinder the proposed opening date of the highway.

He also explained that so much snow is up in this region that has been packed down over the course of the winter that adding a couple extra feet of new and relatively fluffy snow is almost inconsequential to the yearly plowing efforts that go into removing some 20 feet of concrete-like snow that accumulates on the road over the winter months.

Even at this time of year, a large snow event in the higher elevations is not surprising and is a yearly occurrence for the plowing crews. They are used to having fresh snow to deal with on top of the established snow pack and work through it to keep things on track.

As things currently stand, the schedule for opening the pass has not been delayed by the upcoming spring snow event.

Come Memorial Day, we should all have the opportunity to drive through the winding, scenic path that leads to Yellowstone National Park.

Reporting by Connor Pregizer for MTN News