If you are in hot pursuit of a powder-filled, winter snow adventure, then a Pacific Northwest sno-park is just the place to begin.
Whether it is a family outing or a solo, thrill-seeking excursion, you are bound to find the terrain and conditions to cure your winter sweet tooth at a sno-park.
So what are sno-parks?
State sno-parks are state-maintained parking areas that have been set aside for recreation purposes.
They are open only during the winter season – usually beginning in November and running until April.
Most sno-parks will be marked with signs stating they are WINTER RECREATION AREAS. You can find sno-parks in most mountain passes, and also at lots of ski and snow play areas.
Most Pacific Northwest state sno-parks are open for multiple use activities. This means that sledding, cross country skiing, inner tubing, snowshoeing, dog sledding, snow play, and sometimes even snowmobiling are allowed.
Roughly half of the state sno-parks in the Pacific Northwest are reserved for un-motorized sporting.
And even the parks allowing snowmobiles, or any other motorized vehicles, will still have plenty of open, under-exploited areas to explore.
Rules about snowmobiles and snowmobile sno-parks are different than non-motorized parks, so be sure to check out the different regulations.
Permits are necessary to park and use the sno-parks. There is a fine for parking in a sno-park area without a permit, so be sure you grab one.
The permits pay to help keep the areas clean, well-groomed, and maintained, and also help keep up signs, patrol the parks, and to upgrade education and maps.
You can usually get permits for one day, a few days, or for the entire season. You can get permits at U.S. Forest Service ranger stations, some DMV offices, various resort permit agents, outdoor recreation retailers, a few other retail outlets, or online at Washington or Oregon State Park’s websites.
Some permit agents can charge a service fee for permits they sell.
Idaho’s state park program is called the Idaho Park-n-Ski permit. And even California sno-park passes are honored in some Pacific Northwest states. Check your state’s rules to be sure.
One final point to keep in mind…
Chains or tires with traction devices might be required (by local authorities) to get to sno-parks during the winter months. Driving a vehicle without them, during these times, will be a traffic infraction. So come prepared.
And now that you are armed with basic sno-park information, it is time to hit your favorite Pacific Northwest powder for some fun and festivities.