Shenandoah National Park seeing frequent closures due to winter weather

Shenandoah National Park during the winter.
Shenandoah National Park during the winter.(Shenandoah National Park)
Updated: Feb. 14, 2021 at 10:10 PM EST
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SWIFT GAP, Va. (WVIR) - Whenever Charlottesville receives a few inches of snow or ice, Shenandoah National Park sees double that or more. It’s had to close down major parts of Skyline Drive several times this month alone because of the winter weather.

“If you get three or four inches down here, we get eight or 10 inches up there. The load is a lot heavier, it’s colder. So it takes more work to get Skyline Drive reopen,” said Shenandoah National Park Management Specialist Sally Hurlbert.

Hurlbert said due to the inclement weather, Skyline Drive has stayed closed to the public for majority of this month, causing a decrease in visitation revenue. However, due to an increase in visitors last month, the park is still holding strong financially.

“I looked at the numbers from January of last year and compared them to the numbers of January numbers this year’s visitation, and we were up by 25% which is amazing,” Hurlbert said.

January’s success comes after an extremely busy season throughout most of 2020.

“Usually our numbers go down in the winter time, because not as many people come up. This year, we had a high visitation and that’s kind of in line with the visitation we had last year. In 2020, we had over 1.6 million people visit the park, and that’s despite the park being closed for 6 weeks because of the pandemic,” Hurlber said.

Whenever snowfall does occur, however, it could take days or even weeks to clear some areas of the park.

“Skyline Drive is 100 miles long and if you’re pushing eight to 10 inches of snow or more, it takes a long time to get open again,” Hurlbert said.

Before making the trek to the park, Hurlbert suggests checking the park’s mobile app to see the latest updates, and to call to see which parts of Skyline Drive may be open. Then, when parts of the park do reopen, to wear layers and prepare for potentially treacherous trails.

“When we open Skyline Drive here’s still a lot of snow in the woods, and our trails will get walked on by many people, and that makes them icier. We always recommend traction boots, boots with good treads, or even traction devices that you can clip on to your boots,” Hurlbert said.

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