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Snow removal crew working its way up to the summit of Mt. Washington

Union Leader Correspondent

April 25. 2018 12:33PM
Beautiful and functional, this staging area on the Mt. Washington Auto Road, shown Monday afternoon, was the base from which the snow and ice-removal team entered the Cragway on Tuesday. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

With its snow- and ice-removal team working at the Cragway on Tuesday, the Mt. Washington Auto Road, now in its 157th season, expects to be open to the treeline by early to mid-May and to the summit soon thereafter.

The team is armed with a snowcat as well as a grader, backhoe and the Auto Road’s self-made ice drill, which is used to keep 114 culverts open and flowing. Howie Wemyss, the Auto Road’s longtime general manager, said the work started April 2.

The 7.6-mile road (although the distance is rounded up to the more marketable 8 miles) is about 90 percent paved. The road disappears every winter beneath many feet of snow.

The removal team completed the section known as Five Mile on Sunday. The Cragway is the current project, said Wemyss.

“You never know what you’re going to get until you open up the road,” he said, noting that the Cragway has sometimes been under as much as 25 feet of snow and ice.

Overall, this snow-removal season has been similar to most, said Wemyss. In some years, the snowcat, which is the lead vehicle in the work party, had been able to easily cruise up the Auto Road. This year there was more snow and the snowcat had to begin working at the base.

With a magnificent backdrop, a crew equipped with a backhoe works April 20 to remove snow and ice from the Mount Washington Auto Road, which in 2018 will celebrate its 157th season. (Courtesy)

Wemyss said that while snowfall in April has been “bothersome” it was neither unusual nor problematic and unlikely to delay the road’s opening.

“A few warm days,” like Monday and Tuesday, “are going to help,” he said.

Also on the plus-side of things is that the spring run-off has “not been a problem so far,” he said.

Wemyss predicted good things in 2018 for the Auto Road, which is billed as the oldest manmade attraction in America.

For the first time in its history, the Auto Road will let guests reserve time-specific guided van tours online.

“We’re going to have a good, busy, successful summer season,” Wemyss said.

On the other side of the mountain, the season started at the Mount Washington Cog Railway last week, with trips to the halfway point.

Following a day of clearing snow and ice on the Five Mile section of the Mount Washington Auto Road, the removal team gingerly makes its way down on Monday afternoon. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

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