With A Month To Go, Remote Wyoming Stop Sign Way Off Pace To Get Buried In Snow

There's a contest every year to see who can predict what day a stop sign on Togwotee Pass gets buried by snow. More than 500 people this year have entered and can check a WYDOT webcam every day for progress. So far it's not even close.

Andrew Rossi

February 28, 20244 min read

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When Ron Hansen, owner of the Wind River Outdoor Co. in Lander, pulls up the WYDOT webcam on Togwotee Pass at the end of February, he expects and hopes to see a stop sign almost completely buried in several feet of snow.

This year, the snow hasn’t stopped, but it's nowhere near the top of the sign. It’s not even halfway. That doesn’t bode well for Hansen’s annual Stop Sign Snow Challenge.

But it’s not over yet. The more than 500 participants this winter hope for some “March madness” and the heavy snows that come with it to make up for lost time.

“I hope they’re right,” he told Cowboy State Daily.

No Stopping Now

The premise of the annual Stop Sign Snow Challenge is simple. People submit the day they believe the stop sign at Wind River Lake will be completely buried in natural snowfall. Whoever’s closest to the actual date wins some gear from Wind River Outdoor Co.

Hansen said there were more than 500 entries submitted by the Oct. 24, 2023, deadline. Since then, most people have been watching and waiting.

“It looks like there's about 5 feet to go,” Hansen said. “Normally at this time of year, I would say there are probably around 2 feet to go. We're behind quite a bit.”

By March 1, Hansen said the snow is usually up to the bottom of the sign so only the sign itself is exposed. Looking at it Wednesday on the Wyoming Department of Transportation’s web cam, he thinks another 3 feet of snow is needed to reach the sign.

“This year has been slow, given the lack of snowfall and the milder temperatures,” he said. “It’s definitely on the slow side this year.”

But slow snow is better than no snow, and it ain’t over ’til it’s over.

March Madness

While prospects of someone winning the Stop Sign Snow Challenge this year might seem bleak, nobody’s too flustered yet. After years of promoting the fun winter challenge, Hansen said most participants know when to hedge their bets.

“Most entries are for late February through the end of March,” he said. “Historically, 90% of the guesses are the last week of February through the third week of March. So, there’s still time.”

The contest officially ends April 1, so there’s still a month to go. And while the snow’s been slow, Hansen said it is still falling.

“I would say it probably got 6 to 10 inches of new snow last night,” he said. “It’s definitely snowing. It's snowing up there right now. Lightly, but it is snowing.”

Not Every Year’s A Winner

Togwotee Pass sits at an elevation of around 9,658 ft and receives an average snowfall of 25 feet. If March roars in like a snow lion, it won’t take much to make up for lost time.

Hansen isn’t discouraged. He’s as hopeful as anybody that March packs in more snowpack.

“My kids still want to go skiing this year,” he said. “And my family owns some irrigated ground, so we depend on that snowmelt for all the summer grass. And then for outdoor activities and lack of wildfires (in summer), getting another 3, 4, or 5 feet (of snow) on top is nice.”

As for the Stop Sign Snow Challenge, there's never a guarantee that the stop sign will be buried every winter. The challenge has already accomplished its goal, regardless of how snowy it is in Togwotee Pass by the end of March.

Hansen started the challenge in 2017 as a wholesome winter distraction, bringing something entertaining and nonpolitical for people to do while easing their cabin fever until spring returns.

“It’s meant to be fun and good-spirited,” he said. We’re not trying to drive a product or service by this. It’s meant to be something fun online, something different that might make people a little less edgy and have a little more fun.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter