Winter a fun time in Alpine

With the publication of a new winter recreation map, drawn up by the Carson Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and based on the Winter Recreation Plan (elements of which have been put in place or are in the planning/funding stage), comes an opportunity to mention in print what a person might do in Alpine County when the snow lies deep and cold in the backcountry. By the time you read this the map should be available at the Forest Service office in Carson City and locally in Alpine County.

Pick your favorite activity (no...turn the TV off), take a look at the map, grab what you need and head out. The choices are many and in no particular order look like this: snowmobile, ski, ride snowboards, dogsled, icefish, paraski, sled, camp, snowshoe, hot spring soak, read a book, eat and finally, pack for Hawaii.

If your activity requires a sno-park permit stop at Woodfords or the Chamber of Commerce in Markleeville and pick one up. A seasonal permit is $25 while a single day permit is $5.

Coming up Highway 88 past Hope Valley Resort - great for before or after activity food - and Sorensen's as you enter Hope Valley at about 7,000 feet. Look for a yurt on the left at Pickett's Junction. That's Hope Valley Outdoors where cross-country skis, snowshoes and other outdoor gear are available for daily or seasonal rental as well as for sale. Here, miles of trails await the winter recreationist.

Ahead on the right, beyond the West Carson River bridge, is Husky Express featuring dogsled rides and touring events. Take a ride behind a dog team for a unique way to see the winter landscape.

Blue Lakes Road comes next and requires a sno-park permit. This is the major snowmobiling area in Alpine County. Miles and miles of trail wait in some of the most scenic winter country anywhere. In fact it is possible to ride from South Lake Tahoe via Armstrong Pass to Blue Lakes, then down the Clover and Deer Valleys to Highway 4, and on to Bear Valley. This may be beyond the fuel capacity and endurance of many but it is possible. Consult the recreation map for routes and riding areas.

At the Red Lake pullout there are seasonal snowmobile opportunities, skiing, snowboarding and ice fishing. Again, check the recreation map for seasonal closures. Ice anglers - indeed anyone venturing on the ice - should inquire locally regarding ice thickness and safety considerations.

Continuing on 88 and climb the grade to Carson Pass for some fine backcountry skiing, boarding or snowshoeing. North or south of the pass lies some of the best ski terrain in the Sierra. This is also avalanche country so check the Sierra Avalanche Center Web site for the latest advisory.

Caples Lake, just west of Carson Pass, offers ice fishing. Just past Caples dam is Kirkwood Cross-Country and Snowshoe Center, on the right, with miles of groomed trails, rentals, events and planned activities. It's also the county line so turn around and come all the way back to Woodfords, turn right on Highway 89 to Markleeville, and prepare for more winter recreation.

In Markleeville turn right on Montgomery Street which becomes Hot Springs Road, drive five miles, park and soak away tired muscles at Grover Hot Springs State Park. The meadow here offers fine cross country ski possibilities.

If you're snowmobiling continue on 89 past the snow closure gate at Monitor Pass where the road becomes Highway 4 and park at Centerville Flat. There is excellent riding from here heading west but consult locally knowledgeable people for possible routes around the avalanche prone north facing switchbacks. The Winter Recreation Plan calls for improvements to Forest Road 112 that will circumvent the hazardous highway route.

All winter recreationists should check the NOAA weather forecast, the avalanche Web site and carry the essential safety items relevant to their particular activity. Use caution when parking, make sure you're well off the main highway but don't get too far into the snow bank.

Keep in mind the Winter Safety Seminar slated for Feb. 20 at Blue Lakes Road. Sponsored by Friends of Hope Valley and geared for all winter recreationists, this event will focus on the common hazards of winter backcountry travel.


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