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.