HUNTSVILLE -- After one of the longest winter closures in recent history, the Monte Cristo Highway is finally open to motorists.
State Road 39, also known as the Monte Cristo Highway from Mile Marker 37 near Ant Flat Road east of Huntsville to Mile Marker 56 west of Woodruff, is open to all traffic today for the first time all year.
Vic Saunders, spokesman for Region One of Utah Department of Transportation, said the road is opening approximately 30 days later than in previous years because of extremely deep snow levels.
"We're way later (in opening the road) than we've ever been before," Saunders said. "Some of our veterans (snowplow operators) who have worked at this for a long time say they can't ever recall the snow being this deep."
UDOT Region One Director Kris Peterson said the deep snow and ice has "persisted at levels not seen in many years."
For the past several weeks, UDOT crews have been removing snow and ice in preparation for the road opening.
Peterson said the deepest snowfalls he has seen in decades make it not only very difficult to remove, but hard on the equipment used to perform the work.
"We've had to take off a lot of layers (of snow) with bulldozers before our plows could clear off the rest," Saunders said. "We've spent a lot of time up there. It's been a lot of work."
Saunders said present snow levels over the Monte Cristo summit still remain extremely deep.
Motorists venturing over this roadway should prepare for alpine conditions, with off-highway snow depths in excess of 25 feet in some locations. The road may occasionally be icy in some areas as well, Saunders said, and winter storm conditions may occur at any time in the vicinity of Monte Cristo summit.
Meanwhile, State Road 65, The Big Mountain Highway, from Mile Marker 3 near the Emigration Canyon turn-off to Mile Marker 14 south of the East Canyon Resort, which has been closed since Thanskgiving, will remain closed.
Saunders said UDOT crews are currently working on the road and the state hopes to have it open by the end of June.
"There have been several landslides that have covered the road," Saunders said. "We've got some contractors working on repairing them, but it will still take some time before we get that road open."