Crews with the Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) are now three weeks into their efforts to reopen the North Cascades Highway for the season.

The 37-mile stretch of State Route 20, which includes Rainy and Washington Passes, closes annually during the winter months from the Ross Dam Trailhead to Silver Star due to heavy snow and persistent avalanche risks.

DOT spokesperson, Lauren Loebsack, says the road has been fully cleared of snow but there's still a little more to be done before it can be reopened.

"The major work of clearing the actual roadway is now complete but there's still additional maintenance and repairs to do. There's an avalanche control mission scheduled for next week and they'll have to see what shakes out of the avalanche paths before we can schedule an actual opening date."

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Loebsacks says the avalanche chutes through the mountainous section of the highway have still been active in recent weeks since the clearing began.

"The conditions right now are that we're still seeing some snow and mud falling down a little bit through particularly the Liberty Bell avalanche pathways which are on Washington Pass."

Now that the road has been cleared of snow, the DOT says its an ideal time for bicyclists to venture through the closure zone without the concern of motorized traffic using the highway. But cyclists should plan for patches of ice and mud on the roadway and remember that there is no cell service in the area.

The DOT adds that any recreationists planning to visit the backcountry through the closure zone should check the latest avalanche forecasts at the Northwest Avalanche Center's website.

Loebsack says if all goes according to plan and crews don't hit any major snags or encounter any spring snowstorms, the highway could reopen as soon as sometime this week..