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Snowfall Delays Glacier N.P. Campground Openings

May 9, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Near-record snowpack in Montana’s Glacier National Park is delaying the opening of eastside campgrounds one to two weeks past Memorial Day, park officials announced.

“They’re really buried,” park spokeswoman Ellen Blickhan told the Great Falls (Mont.) Tribune.

In some cases, the snow is deep enough to reach the rooftops of visitor facilities and quarters used by park employees. Crews need additional time to dig out buildings and utilities, she said.

Last year, a record 2.2 million people traveled to Glacier Park, which celebrated its 100 year anniversary in 2010.

The delays in the campground openings were announced to inform visitors that winter remains in Glacier even if the calendar says it’s May.

“Winter in Glacier seems to hang on a lot longer, so sometimes it’s really hard for people to fathom the snow amounts,” Blickhan said.

Many Glacier, Cut Bank and Two Medicine campgrounds are tentatively scheduled to open June 10, while Rising Sun campground is set to open June 3. The campgrounds typically open Memorial Day weekend. Memorial Day is May 30.

“That’s what we’re shooting for, but it could be subject to change,” Blickhan said of the scheduled openings. “That’s all really going to depend on weather.”

A storm on Friday dropped 12 to 18 inches of snow at higher elevations in the park.

The opening of Swift Current Motor Inn also will be delayed from June 3 to June 10.

St. Mary Campground is open year round.

Many Glacier Road, which can be clear as soon as the third Saturday in April in some years, remains closed to the public. The drifts on that road are so large on some stretches that it’s similar to driving through a tunnel, Blickhan said.

Many Glacier Hotel is scheduled to open on time, on June 17.

Campgrounds on the west side of the park will open on time, Blickhan said.

Winter lingering into May and even June isn’t uncommon in the high country of Glacier Park, but this year stands out for the depth of snowpack and even the amount of snow at lower elevations.

At Many Glacier Valley, located in the northeast section of the park, 48 inches of snow remained on the ground as of Tuesday, when snowpack was 402% of average — or 19.7 inches of snow water equivalent, just shy of the 1997 record of 20.1 inches.

The average snow water equivalent at this time of year in the valley is 3.2 inches.

Similar snowpack conditions are reported across the park, Blickhan said.

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