Shelley Osterloh Reporting It’s hard to imagine just how much snow is in the mountains when we see flowers blooming in the city. This year the Utah Department of Transportation says only four of the eight Utah mountain passes that close for the winter will be open by Memorial Day. Just this morning, Shelley Osterloh checked out the state's biggest snowblower as it worked to clear one Northern Utah Mountain Pass.
Northeast of Ogden and Huntsville are the snow covered mountains of the Cache National Forest. At lower elevations campsites are ready for Memorial Day visitors. But as you travel up Highway 39 you come to the locked gate of Monte Cristo.
Traveling with the Utah Department of Transportation we continue just six miles up into winter. Through the cloud and swirling snow we catch our first glimpse of the "Little Giant." An impressive machine that chews up snow and throws it as far as a 150 feet from the road.
It used to take eight men and machines two weeks to clear this pass; now two "Little Giants" can do it in just a few days, if the snow stops.
Bill Smith, UDOT District Supervisor: "They put a hole through this drift yesterday where we are standing, and there was probably four feet in here this morning when they started."
It is cold and snowy and windy here and wind is the problem. The 20 foot tall snow drifts are caused by wind. And this snow is packed solid. Still the Little Giant, with its computerized steering, moves through it, doing what other scrapers and blowers can't.
Bill Smith, UDOT District Supervisor: "Where the old machines would get sucked off the road if it was on supered area, these machines just turn the wheels and come right out, so its significantly better."
Steve Shup, Driver: "It’s awesome. It does what ever you want it to do."
Now if just stops snowing for a while this 340-thousand dollar snowblower will have the Monte Cristo Pass open before Memorial Day, even though some of the snow-covered campgrounds may not be.
In Northern Utah Guardsman and the Mirrow Lake Highway will NOT be open by Memorial Day. There’s just too much snow.