With a somewhat warmer spring, the snowpack in the Cascades is melting a little earlier this year. That's allowed ODOT to begin work on clearing the McKenzie Pass of Sisters nearly a month earlier than the last several years.
"It seems like the snow pack is about half, I'd say, of what we were up against last year," ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy said Wednesday. "A lot less than that than compared to two years ago, so we're making pretty good progress."
The road, now called state Hwy. 242, has been a part of Oregon's history since the late 1800s. It was used as a way to move cattle at first, and later to move mail and freight over the Cascades.
"They came up here with mules and by hand hacked out a really rough, scrabble road -- but it served a purpose," Murphy said.
Now it's heavy machinery that keeps the storied road open.
The pass and its twisting approaches are one of the most scenic drives in all of Oregon, and when that road is plowed and open, business in Sisters feels it in their bottom line.
"In the summer months, tons and tons of bicyclists are always coming off of that pass," said Ila Huff, manager of the Sno Cap Drive-In, "They love it."
The iconic Sno Cap in Sisters says come summer, the McKenzie is a popular place for tourists.
"They definitely love the views in the mountains," Huff said. "We all think it's beautiful in the Valley -- and when they come here, they think it's amazing here."
For now, the gate remains locked as crews continue to work. But come summertime, the pass is the must-see spot.
"The McKenzie is definitely the one to take, because it's just such a beautiful view, if you never have taken it," Huff said.
This time, the pass has been closed since Nov. 13th.
ODOT is currently clearing one lane and will let the rest of the snow melt naturally.
The state agency isn't sure when the road will officially reopen. Last year, it was June 21st.