Sierra Sno-parks; Snow play areas offer winter fun |

Sierra Sno-parks; Snow play areas offer winter fun

With winter’s arrival in the Sierra comes the visions of skiing, snowboarding and slippery roads. But, there is so much more to do right here in the Truckee area.

Snow play areas with designated trailheads and snow-“park”ing, a concept started 10 years ago, is all the rage for the young and young-at-heart. From Blackwood Canyon on Lake Tahoe’s west shore to the Yuba Gap on Donner Summit, residents and visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, sledding and snowmobiling in a number of areas.

“The most popular areas are Echo Summit (on Highway 50) and the Yuba Gap,” said Connie Finster, who manages the state’s Sno-Park areas. “Sledding has become a favorite activity.”

Finster added these areas are also the most crowded on the weekends.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation coordinates the program with the help of the U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, California Department of Transportation and California Highway Patrol.

Although Sno-Park sounds as if it refers to the recreational area, Finster pointed out that the word park refers to the parking available at the trailheads and snowplay areas.

Day permits cost $5 and seasonal permits cost $25, and without either, parking in these areas will result in $75 fines issued by CHP. Parking is on a first-come, first-served basis.

The revenues from permit sales pay for snow removal, sanitation, signs and trailhead markings. The seasonal permits are valid until May 30, after which, permits are not required. Finster said the snow quality diminishes quickly at the end of May and the need for permits lessens.

In most of the 19 Sno-Parks located throughout the state, overnight parking is allowed, including car camping. However, the Donner Lake, Yuba Gap, and Cisco Grove Sno-Parks do not allow camping.

Donner Memorial State Park employee Andrea Batie said after Christmas the park’s two-and-one-half mile trail is packed with cross-country skiers and snowshoers. The park’s activities have been accessible for four years and Batie said accessibility to Donner Lake is easy along the well-marked trail.

“We just don’t have the hills for sledding,” she said. “But children are welcome to play in the snow near the museum.”

With the additional interest in sledding, the activity has inherent risks because of the numbers of children and adults hitting the sometimes icy hills.

“We just ask that users use common sense when sledding,” Finster said. “No one is there to tell people that there are hazards and it is up to them to be smart and cautious. Users need to be careful of each other.”

Permits are available at many sporting goods stores, at various businesses located near the Sno-Parks, and at all northern California State Automobile Association offices (for members only).

For mail orders, send a $26 check for a season’s pass, made out to the California Department of Parks and Recreation, to: Permit Sales, Sno-Park Program, P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento CA 94296-0001.

Allow at least two weeks for processing.

For information on how to obtain a Sno-Park permit or to request a map of the Sno-Park sites, call (916) 324-1222.

Maps are also available at Truckee’s CHP office.

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