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Record snow fall in the mountains this year means there’s still lots of the white stuff left for winter recreationists. But 2017 funds to plow parking lots, maintain restrooms and groom trails for motorized and non-motorized use will be exhausted as of Friday, March 31, the day marking the official end of the winter recreation season.
The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission invites winter recreation enthusiasts to continue using many winter recreation areas for Nordic skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. But the Commission advises users to be aware that trails won't be groomed, and parking areas won't be plowed. Portable restrooms may remain available at some Sno-Parks.
Funding for grooming, plowing, sanitation, education and enforcement for the snowmobile program comes from revenue associated with snowmobile registrations. The non-motorized program (cross country skiing, snowshoeing, etc.) comes from Sno-Park Permit sales. The State Parks Winter Recreation Program must determine the winter grooming and plowing budget during the previous summer. In the summer of 2016, the program budgeted for 20 percent more funding for grooming this year—and Washington received 50 percent more snow than in previous years.
“I wish we had a crystal ball last summer that could have foretold such an epic winter,” said Pamela McConkey, Winter Recreation Program Manager for Washington State Parks. “To manage the program responsibly and sustain the program over time, we can’t dip into future years’ funding.”
Sno-Park Permits are valid through the end of April. However, many state parks may require just the Discover Pass after March 31. Find out which state parks will be requiring just a Discover Pass here: www.parks.state.wa.us/Winter.
The Winter Recreation Program manages Sno-Parks on lands owned or managed by other agencies, such as the U.S. Forest Service. Visitors should check which sites will be open and which will still require a Sno-Park permit here: www.parks.state.wa.us/Winter.
For those who want to continue non-motorized or motorized snow activities, especially with Spring breaks happening this week and next, McConkey recommends people proceed at their own risk.
“We’re expecting more snow this week.” McConkey added. “We want visitors to continue to be prepared for winter play and driving conditions and to exercise caution.”
McConkey recommends checking weather conditions before heading out and to also check in with the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) at http://www.nwac.us/. The mix of warming and cold conditions during the spring can increase the risk of avalanches.