Troopers work to avoid chaos at Stevens Pass



Posted on January 16, 2014 at 7:09 PM

Updated Thursday, Jan 16 at 9:00 PM

STEVENS PASS, Wash. -- David Black has been skiing at Stevens Pass for nearly 60 years, but he's never seen anything like what has played out over the past two weekends.

"What should be a fun experience ends up being not so fun," he said.

Video from the Washington State Patrol shows a back-up the Department of Transportation says stretched 6 miles on Sunday. Heavy snow accompanied by people parking along the side of the road literally turned the heavily travelled Highway 2 into a parking lot. The DOT closed the road for two hours so the State Patrol could get people turned around. Megan Hall was stuck in it.

"We were trying to come up here for night skiing and we turned around because it was just crazy packed," she said.

A lack of snow at Snoqualmie Pass has sent snow starved powder hounds to Stevens Pass, and the resort simply doesn't have thre parking capacity to handle it all. It's gotten so bad people have been parking along the highway two miles from the summit and walking through an avalanche zone to get to the lifts.

"If we do have an avalanche they're possibly going to get buried, injured, possibly killed," said Sgt. Kirk Rudeen of the Washington State Patrol.

On the road it becomes a snowball effect. With cars parked on the side of the US 2, the highway is down to just one lane. That means plows have a hard time getting through so cars get stuck.

"The highway is essentially closed when that happens," said Rudeen. "Commerce stops. People can't get where they need to be."

Stevens Pass had 6,300 customers on Sunday and some 9,000 in one day alone the weekend before. They're now opening up the employee parking lot to accommodate some of the overflow.

"Now that Snoqualmie is open and Crystal Mountain is getting snow, we think those people will start to spread out and we'll get our normal number of customers again," said Stevens Pass spokesman Chris Danforth.

The resort has just activated a mobile account that will send you parking updates by texting "follow stevensupdates" to 40404. You can also get parking report updates through twitter by following @stevensupdates.

Five State Patrol troopers will be patrolling Stevens Pass this weekend, making sure no one parks, walks or even stops along Highway 2. Anyone who does will get a $124 ticket and could have their car impounded.