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Northwest's High Mountain Passes Set To Open Early

April 2013 file photo of Washington's Chinook Pass. A low snowpack this year means the road is set to open earlier than usual.

Several high mountain passes in the Northwest are set to have historically-early openings this year due to low snowpack.

Washington transportation officials said opening day for Chinook Pass -- between Enumclaw and Yakima -- will likely be April 3. Some years it hasn’t opened up until well past Memorial Day.

That’s good news for some resorts, restaurants and gas stations. Doug Williams, who runs Whistlin’ Jack lodge, cabins and restaurant off Highway 410 outside of Naches, said his summertime staff is excited to be hired on early this year, and get in more hours. Williams nearly doubles his staff to about 70 people between now and early July.

He said he’s got a lot on the spring to-do list.

“All of a sudden you look around and say, ‘Gosh darn, I sure wish I had another week,’” Williams said.

Other passes set to open early are Cayuse Pass in Washington and possibly Oregon’s McKenzie Pass. Idaho’s mountain passes are kept open nearly year round.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.