WEST GLACIER - Avalanches and towering snowdrifts continue to keep Glacier National Park's alpine reaches locked in a world of winter, but below the peaks the park is emerging with roads and businesses opening like so many glacier lilies.
Those anticipating that first spring drive over Logan Pass on the park's popular Going-to-the-Sun Road might have to wait a while, but nearly all other roads and most services are now fully open.
As for the opening of the Sun Road, "It won't happen for some time yet," according to park spokesperson David Eaker. "It might be another week or week and a half before they get anything going. You just never know."
Currently, motorists on the west side of the Continental Divide can drive the Sun Road as far as Avalanche Creek, while hikers and cyclists can venture another dozen miles or so to Bird Woman Falls Overlook. On the east side, Eaker said, cars can park at Jackson Glacier Overlook while pedalers or pedestrians can climb as far as Siyeh Bend.
Plow crews are near the top on both sides of the Divide, Eaker said, but have yet to tackle the "Big Drift," which buries the road on the eastern lip of Logan Pass.
"It's melting very quickly with this warm weather," Eaker said, "so that's helping them out. They should be on the pass fairly quickly."
But once on top, there remains considerable work to do. Rocks are strewn across the highway, and in places snow banks throttle the route to one narrow lane. Culverts are clogged with runoff debris, and guard rails still are collecting dust in storage.
Most of the extremely high avalanche danger that defined early spring on the Sun Road, however, now has passed, allowing crews to work in relative safety. Some of the big slides cut loose and poured across the road during May, Eaker said, and other areas that did not slide are now simply melting out.
Beneath the snowy mountaintops, all roads and front-country campgrounds are now open, with overnight camp pricing from $12 to $17. Because sites are granted on a first-come, first-served basis and because many popular sites fill up quickly, park officials for the first time are posting fill-up times for current and previous days online at www.nps.gov/glac/whatsnew/recupd.htm.
Other visitor services, such as hotels, restaurants, gift shops and tour companies, opened prior to Memorial Day weekend with few exceptions. The hiker shuttle service does not open until July 1, the same day Granite Park Chalet is set to open. Sperry Chalet should open July 10.
For more information on what's open and what's not, check the park's Web site at www.nps.gov/glac.