All eyes are on our WSDOT teams as they began work this month on clearing snow off two of Washington’s most popular mountain passes: North Cascades Highway SR20 and Chinook Pass -gateways to some of our favorite backcountry skiing terrain. The WSDOT teams are working hard (as usual) to get North Cascades Highway open by mid-May and Chinook Pass open on Friday, May 23 in time for Memorial Day weekend. The opening of Cayuse Pass usually happens between those two (or as early as May 2? this yr per Mt. Rainier NP’s site – which also has White River Rd. to White River Campground pegged for a 5/23/14 estimated opening). When WSDOT measured snow depths back in mid-March along the North Cascades Hwy, the summit of Washington Pass measured almost 10 ft, which is double the depth of last year. Snow on the highway below the Liberty Bell avalanche chutes averaged 35 ft deep. As of yesterday, the West and East side crews are 11 miles apart (at MP 153 and Spiral Gulch MP 164 just 1 mi. east of Liberty Bell Mtn, respectively). The forecast is calling for up to 9″ of new snow by tomorrow at >4500′ but we hope WSDOT continues to plow on through. Once open, the North Cascades Highway, a Scenic Byway, provides the northernmost route across the Cascade Mountain Range in Washington and access to the 684,000 acres North Cascades National Park complex (with over 300 glaciers, the most in the U.S. outside of AK). Cayuse Pass located at 4,675 ft elevation and at the junction of State Routes 123 and 410 is about 5 mi west of the 5,430 ft high Chinook Pass summit. Cayuse Pass connects to Chinook Pass and White Pass on the east side of Mount Rainier National Park. As we count down to this year’s opening, check out this video featuring WSDOT’s Avalanche Specialist, John Stimberis, and Crystal Mountain’s King of the Hill, Andy DeVore, from a past opening day at Chinook Pass. Also, study up on Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Routes Washington, the definitive guide by Martin Volken and his team at Pro Guiding Service. Live to ski another day!