Mount Rainier National Park Offers a Snowplay Area and Guided Snowshoe Walks

Snow tubes like these are “soft” sliding devices, so they’re OK-ed for use on the Paradise snowplay runs. Photo by Jamsong via Wikipedia

A sliding and sledding snowplay area was opened Christmas Eve in the Paradise area of Mount Rainer National Park. Ranger-guided snowshoe walks, which have been offered since December 20, continue. The snowplay area and the snowshoe walks will remain available to the public, as scheduled, through March 29.

The Paradise area, which now sports a new visitor center, is the most popular destination for Mount Rainer visitors (of which there are about 1.5 million a year). When you get to Paradise, you’ll find the snowplay area just to the north of the upper parking lot.

The snowplay area has two runs for recreationists with plastic sleds, saucers, inner tubes, and other “soft” sliding devices (see guidelines below). “Hard” sliding devices like toboggans or sleds with metal-edged runners are strictly prohibited. Bear in mind too that, although skiing and snowboarding are permitted elsewhere on the premises, the snowplay area is the only place in the park where sliding and sledding are permitted. It’s just too dangerous elsewhere because people can attempt slopes that are far too steep, mistakenly slide over waterfalls, crash into trees, break through thin snow into stream gorges, or slam into other people.

The snowplay runs will be groomed and ranger-supervised through January 4. After that, the runs will remain open, but grooming and staffing will be provided only on weekends and holidays from January 9 through March 29.

For visitor enjoyment and safety, these few guidelines apply:

• Use only inner tubes, plastic sleds, saucers, or other soft sliding devices. No wooden toboggans, runner sleds with metal edges, or other hard devices are permitted.
• Compressed air is available at the rock restrooms tunnel across the plaza from the new Jackson Visitor Center when snowplay rangers are present.
• Be sure the run is clear before starting your slide. Collisions may cause serious injury.
• Dress warmly and in layers with a wicking fabric such as wool or polypropylene next to the skin and a waterproof outer layer. Wear a hat, gloves, and snow-sealed boots. Do not wear lightweight blue jeans and t-shirts. They get wet easily and will not keep you warm.
• Rest, re-warm, and snack frequently to help keep you comfortable and alert. Take a warm-up break at the Jackson Visitor Center before feet, hands, noses, or ears feel numb. Food service is available from 11 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. when the visitor center is open.
• The snowplay area is usually closed by 4:30 p.m. nightly.

Before you go: Check on snowplay area status by calling the Longmire Museum at 360-569-2211 ext. 3314 (9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. daily).

Ranger-guided snowshoe walks are also available at Paradise. The walks, which are offered at 12:30 and 2:30 on a first-come, first-served basis, cover about 1.5 miles and last two hours. Group walks (13-25 people) begin at 10:30 a.m. and must be reserved in advance.

After January 4, the snowshoe walks will be offered only on weekends and holidays through March 29. Snowshoes are supplied by the park ($1 donation appreciated) or you can bring your own.

Be aware that snowshoeing is a moderately strenuous activity. Wear layered clothing and sturdy boots. Don’t bring children under eight years of age. Show up early: sign-up at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor Center begins one hour before the scheduled start time.

Watch the weather! Winter weather can quickly create hazardous conditions and cause road closings in this park. For current information call the Longmire Museum at 360-569-2211. (You can go online for general park information at this site.)

Traveler trivia, no extra charge: You are not likely to run out of snow at Paradise, which is the world’s snowiest place where measurements are regularly taken. The highest annual snowfall recorded there, the one for the 1971-972 winter season, was 93.5 feet. To include the full winter season, the measurement period extends from July 1 to June 30.

Comments

An old joke maintains that there are only two seasons at Paradise, winter and the Fourth of July. However, it's no longer 'the world's snowiest place'. Mt. Baker ski area in northern Washington has been the annual snowfall record holder since 1999 with 1,140 inches: http://www.usatoday.com/weather/news/1999/wsnorcrd.htm

You're right about Mount Baker's record snowfall, Tahoma, and that sure is a LOT of snowfall! But this is what I said in the article (italics added):

You are not likely to run out of snow at Paradise, which is the world’s snowiest place where measurements are regularly taken. The highest annual snowfall recorded there, the one for the 1971-972 winter season, was 93.5 feet. To include the full winter season, the measurement period extends from July 1 to June 30.

I didn't say that Paradise holds the record for the greatest annual snowfall. I simply said that Paradise got 93.5 feet in one snow season. As far as I know, Paradise remains the world's snowiest place where snowfall is regularly measured. That's based on average annual snowfall, which is what "snowiest place" means.

In similar fashion, Hilo, Hawaii, is the rainiest city in America based on number of days with rain each year. However, hundreds of other cities and towns in America have had more rainfall in a year, more rainfall in 24 hours, etc., etc., etc.

I'll let you judge whether this is all weaselspeak.

Thanks for the clarification, Bob, and apologies for misinterpreting your original post. You're certainly not a talking musteline! I thought you might be interested in the following snippets from: http://www.skimountaineer.com/CascadeSki/CascadeSnow.html The brackets are mine for clarity.

"From the mid 1950's until 1999, this location [Paradise] held the world record for measured snowfall in a single season, and it was the only station in the world to have recorded snowfalls of over 1000 inches in a season. In 1998-99, Paradise once again topped 1000 inches for the first time in a quarter-century, yet its longstanding seasonal snowfall record was eclipsed by the Mount Baker Ski Area, which recorded 1140 inches (2896 cm) at its upper base area (4200 ft / 1300 m). However, Paradise still retains the world records for...average annual snowfall, with a mean of 717 inches (1821 cm) over the official 1971-2000 period of record and 692 inches (1758 cm) over the 50 years of consecutive data since 1954...24-hour [snowfall] 70", November 26, 1955...monthly [snowfall] 363", January 1925...[and] Maximum (on ground) 367", March 10, 1956."

This website contains a wealth of information and references concerning Cascade weather and snowfall and will provide hours of entertainment for any other snow lovers out there.

This snow lover doesn't care who holds the record. She just wants to play in it. Thanks, Bob, for reminding me about the snowplay area at Paradise. I've added it to my travel list.

Tahoma, I'm going to skip the normal vetting process and unilaterally present you with Traveler's Obfuscatespeak Award for 2008. That musteline thing was very clever! And thanks for alerting me to that website with all the fascinating cold and snow info. I'm something of a weatherhound, having learned at an early age (while hunting and trapping in the Michigan snow and cold) that "It's better to be weatherwise than otherwise."

Donna, I envy you the opportunity to enjoy the snowplay area at Paradise. BTW, have you ever used a cafeteria tray or a flattened cardboard box for sliding? A thousand years ago, when I was an undergrad at Western Michigan University in snowy (and hilly) Kalamazoo, we used to press those items into service for sliding after every fresh snowfall.

Have you ever used a sturdy trash bag? It's fun to have one in your pack and use it when you encounter a snowfield on a suitable slope. A number of years ago I got to use it on Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park. It was in June and technically the summit trail was still closed for the season, but we wanted to hike it anyway and did so. On the way down we used our bags on every slope. The whole descent felt like a matter of minutes and was lots of fun.

I do not recommend hiking closed trails. But if you happen to be in the mountains when you might stumble on mid size or large snowfields on gentle slopes, just pack one sturdy trash bag or something similar for every participant and have fun.