Sno-Park play areas

Are you familiar with that popular Monday Night Football question: "Are you ready for some football?"

Well, let's change that question a little bit and ask, "Are you ready to play in the snow?"

If you are, it's that time of the year for snow lovers to get sleds and saucers out of storage sheds or garages, to check sledding inter tubes for leaks, to tune-up cross country skis, to re-lace snowshoes or to service snowmobiles and their trailers.

When that is done, you'll be all set to play in that soft, white, fluffy stuff.

Once the snow arrives, you need to decide where to go to play.

With that in mind, this week's "Q-Tip" is about the many different Sno-Park areas in California.

What in the heck is a Sno-Park area?

Well, for those of you who don't know about Sno-Park areas, here's some basic information:

- The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the Calif. Dept. of Parks and Recreation with the assistance of the U.S. Forest Service, the Calif. Dept. of Transportation (CalTrans) and the Calif. Highway Patrol operates a total of 19 different Sno-Park play areas throughout the Central Sierra Nevada. Those areas range all the way from Yuba Pass, just north of Truckee, to Rock Creek, north of Bishop.

- In our general area, some of those Sno-Park play areas include:

Donner Summit on I-80. Crowded on weekends. No snowmobiles. Capacity of 70 cars.

Echo Summit on U.S. 50. A popular snow play area with some cross country skiing. No snowmobiles. Capacity of 100 cars.

Kit Carson Pass on S.R. 88. A very popular cross country ski area. No snowmobiles. Capacity of 50 cars.

Lake Alpine on S.R. 4 (the Ebbetts Pass Highway), which is crowded on weekends and has groomed snowmobile trails. Capacity of 35 cars.

Meiss Meadow on S.R. 88, 1/4 mile west of Kit Carson Pass. Very popular cross country skiing area. No snowmobiles. Capacity of 50 cars.

- Snow-clearing equipment, parking and toilet facilities are provided at all of the Sno-Park sites by CalTrans.

- The U.S. Forest Service provides the hills, meadows and trails.

- "Old Man Winter" provides the deep snow.

- All you need to provide is the recreational equipment.

That's an unbeatable combination for a fun-filled excursion in the Great Outdoors in the wintertime for the entire family.

If you're interested, here's how to do it:

All you need is a Sno-Park permit to park at any of those locations. Those permits are very reasonably priced at either $5 per day or $25 for an annual permit. The Sno-Park parking permit season runs through May 30. Vehicle parking is on a first-come, first-served basis at all locations.

In Carson City, those permits can be obtained at these locations:

- Aspen Archery at 3579 U.S. 50 East, Unit No. 219 (884-1464) (available in the near future)

- California State Automobile Association - Nevada Division office at 2901 S. Carson St. (883-2470) (available only if you are a AAA member).

In the Reno-Sparks area, they can be obtained at these locations:

- REI in Reno at 828-9090

- Sierra Mountaineering in Reno at 358-4824

- The Boat Shop in Sparks at 358-7211

And, if you don't think that you need a permit, here's what happens if you are tempted to park in one of those Sno-Park play areas without having the necessary parking permit:

You are subject to being cited, having your vehicle towed away and assessed a fine of $75. That's an expense combination that can totally ruin your day in the Great Outdoors. So, be sure to have that parking permit.

Special Note: There is a brand-new Sno-Park snowmobile trailhead in Hope Valley at the Blue Lakes Road Junction.

For information or to purchase permits, call the Sno-Park Program office at (916) 324-1222 or write to: Permit Sales, Sno-Park Program, P.O. Box 942896, Sacramento, CA 94296-0001.


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