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Washington’s North Cascades Highway could open extra-early this year, thanks to this winter’s scanty snow.

The highway,  which is closed each winter because of (usually) heavy snow and avalanche danger,  often doesn’t open until May. This year, it could open in less than a month,  said Jeff Adamson, of the Washington State Department of Transportation, in an email.

Avalanche-control specialists and maintenance workers checked the mountain highway Tuesday by snow cat, said Adamson, stopping to measure snow depth at two dozen places and found it was less than half of last year’s  in places.

“Snow at the summit of (5,447-foot-elevation) Washington Pass measured only five feet over the highway centerline, about half the depth  last year,” said Adamson. “Snow on the highway below the Liberty Bell (LB) avalanche chutes averaged 35 feet deep a year ago but this year the depth at LB1 was 20 feet, LB2 was 15 and LB3, 30 feet deep.”

Road crews will begin clearing the highway, which is quicker route between Western Washington and the Methow Valley, on  March 16.  See the highway’s previous opening/closing dates here.