Blanket of snow lures dozens to top of Maunakea

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald The summit of Mauna Loa is seen in the distance as the Wilkerson family walks down a slope at the summit of Maunakea on Tuesday.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Observatories are surrounded by snow Tuesday at the summit of Maunakea.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Puna resident Aaron Todd carves down a hill while snowboarding at the summit of Maunakea on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.This was Todd's first time snowboarding since moving from Vermont in 2018.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A disposable mask is left in the snow on the summit of Maunakea on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021.

  • Aaron Todd raises his fist before snowboarding down toward the observatories on the summit of Maunakea on Tuesday. (Photos by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald)

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A family sleds down a slope Tuesday at the summit of Maunakea.

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Puna resident Aaron Todd sends a shaka while snowboarding Tuesday down a hill at the summit of Maunakea. This was Todd’s first time snowboarding since moving to Hawaii from Vermont in 2018.

On Tuesday afternoon, dozens of Hawaii Island residents and visitors alike ascended more than 13,000 feet up Maunakea to experience the snow that recently blanketed the mountain before it melts away.

Snow has covered Maunakea’s summit throughout the month of January, with additional snow blanketing the summit most recently on Jan. 25.

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The Maunakea Access Road was cleared for visitors to the mauna, and many have taken advantage this week.

Aaron Todd traveled to the summit with his wife to snowboard for the first time in three years.

As a Vermont native, Todd has waited for the opportunity to snowboard in his new state since moving to Hawaii in 2018.

“I mean this is insane, right?” Todd asked. “I don’t think there are too many people who can say they’ve snowboarded in Hawaii.”

After acclimating to the elevation, Todd snowboarded around the summit while his wife watched and cheered him on.

“When I was coming up here I saw the snow thin out, so I was a little worried,” Todd said. “It’s a little icy, but I was able to get some nice runs in.”

Todd has been checking things off his bucket list and snowboarding in Hawaii was one of the many experiences he still needed to check off.

“I heard there was snow in Maui last year, so that might have to be my next snowboarding experience,” Todd said.

The Wilkerson family traveled from Waikoloa to have fun in the snow, with their boogie boards in tow.

While her children bobbed up and down the slopes using their boards as sleds, Meg Wilkerson was in awe of their consistent energy at such a high altitude.

“We love to drive up here anytime it’s snows,” Wilkerson said. “It’s the only snow the boys have ever known, and they have so much fun up here.”

While Wilkerson is from Tennessee, her two boys have lived on Hawaii Island their whole lives.

“This is usually a tradition for us around Christmas Eve, but we couldn’t come up until this week,” Wilkerson said. “It’s really special to live in a place where you could sled and surf in the same day.”

Sandy Beach and Muijer Durk visited the summit of Maunakea for the first time since recently moving to the island from Charlotte, N.C. The adventurous couple climbed one of the largest slopes at the summit to have the best view of the world around them.

“Sandy is a daredevil and decided to slide down the mountain on her bottom,” Durk said.

“We climbed up the mountain and I thought this was the fastest way down,” Beach said. “So, I just got down on my bottom and went. It was awesome!”

Tim Summers of Virginia and Cat Anderson of Colorado were surprised at the ease of driving up to the summit.

“We planned to come up the mountain while we were visiting, but we weren’t expecting snow,” Anderson said. “I’m glad we could drive up easily to experience it.”

While the summit is open to visitors, Maunakea rangers will only be allowing vehicles with 4-wheel drive to access the road above Halepohaku and the visitor’s center.

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Snow is expected the melt through the week as clear skies are predicted for the next four nights, according to the Maunakea Weather Center.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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