The upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season. It’s also the target for reopening several alpine highways that have been closed for the winter.

"While most of us have put away our snow shovels and winter coats, WYDOT crews have been busy battling snow and ice to reopen several seasonal closures for summertime travel" according to WYDOT Public Affairs officer Doug McGee.

Wyoming is home to several high altitude highways that WYDOT deems impractical to keep open in the winter.

Mike Eastman Blazed Trails Forgotten, Youtube
Mike Eastman Blazed Trails Forgotten, Youtube

Reopening in springtime requires removing deep and drifted snow with specialized equipment like the rotary plow.

WYDOT's Senior Heavy Mechanic Calvin Pisano says "It can take four foot of snow, straight down to an inch of snow on the asphalt. So they difintely help out a lot."

Operations have become more efficient in recent years with the addition of GPS-Equipped snowcats which quickly cut down large drifts. Newer rotary plows help with more power and increased time.

Mike Eastman Blazed Trails Forgotten, Youtube
Mike Eastman Blazed Trails Forgotten, Youtube

The big difference is they can take on a lot more snow at a faster pace and don't have as much trouble trying to cut through straight snow. However, the work is remote and hard on equipment, requiring crews to be accompanied by a full time mechanic.

"When they need help, I can get there as quick as possible to help them out. Get them situated and just keep on going."

A mild winter has helped speed efforts this year. WYO 77 in Shirley Basin and US 14 in the Bighorns are already open.

Highways over the Snowy Range, Beartooth Pass and Battle Pass are on track to open by Memorial Day.

Travelers should expect persistent wet and icy conditions as well as quickly changing weather.

"It could be sunny one day, it could be a blizzard, the next. So we just want to make sure everybody just is aware of weather and as safe as possible" says McGee.

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