Snowdrifts that are twice the height of the average Canadian man have wreaked havoc on North Mountain.
Officials with Cape Breton Highlands national park say a section of the Cabot Trail between Pleasant Bay and Big Intervale has reopened after being impassible since Tuesday.
Bricin Lyons who operates Highlands Hostel, near Big Intervale, said the road closure meant that visitors could longer connect to his business from the western side of the island.
For local residents, Lyons said the road closure also meant not being able to get young hockey players to nearby games in Cheticamp.
“It’s our busy winter season here and we’ve had to tell a few of our travellers they have to re-route,” said the British Columbia native who opened the four-season accommodation in Cape North back in September 2017.
“They’re coming from Halifax airports and Halifax and so we’ve got a lot of backpackers and people that want to explore the snow.”
But if you’re expect Lyons to wish away the snow you’d be mistaken.
Operating out of a century-old church, Highlands Hostel markets to area as a Winter Wonderland offering up activities such as snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, hiking and ice fishing.
“Last winter was our first winter so we did a lot of social media about the area,” said Lyons. “We’ve been calling it the winter capital of Nova Scotia and people have bought into it.”
Lyons said the massive snowbanks themselves have drawn quite a bit of attention to the area.
“People go up and stand by it and take pictures,” he said.
By Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Darlene Doucet, communications officer for Parks Canada in Cape Breton, said the roadway was re-opened.
Earlier in the week, park crews worked to clear drifts of over 3-3.5 metres (10-12 feet) of hard-packed snow with the use of a specialized snow blower and plow.
The average height of a Canadian man is 5’10” according to an international study released in 2016.
Rob Howey, acting superintendent for national park, said there has snowfall on North Mountain since early November, with continued snowfall piling up over time.
“It has been a combination of both snow that hasn’t melted that’s been accumulating since early November but also the fact that we’ve been hit hard in the last couple of weeks too.”
Although the path was temporarily closed to the public, Howey said there was enough passage to allow emergency vehicles to travel through.
“It does affect communities and we recognize that and we do our best to keep that road open,” he said. “The fact is that we’ve just had a great deal of snow and it’s making things very challenging.”
Howey said part of the issue is not just accumulated snow but poor visibility due blowing snow.
He said part of the problem is a lack of tree coverage in the area, something Parks Canada is working to change through its Bring Back the Boreal project.
“That limits our ability to safely attend the area and plow the road,” he said. “Where places get rain, North Mountain will just get snow.”