❄️ The snow is falling! Are you ready?
Snowmobilers take a quick break at Crystal Springs Sno-Park.
Nov. 18, 2020
Although Game of Thrones has long passed, the phrase “Winter is Coming” is here to stay — in many contexts.
For Washington State Parks, the context is literal. Temperatures are dropping, it’s snowing in the mountains and Sno-Parks will soon reopen.
But like everything else in 2020, winter recreation is ramping up against the backdrop of COVID-19. And that means snowy outings will require planning and care.
A backcountry skier heads toward a warm-up at Bumping Lake Hut.
Warm up, but stay healthy
Cozy warming huts dot the trails at many Sno-Parks. Indeed, this feature is a winter recreation selling point. The huts draw snowshoers, skiers and snowmobilers to sit by their wood stoves, make hot cocoa and relax.
While some huts will open this year, State Parks staff warn against long lunches, naps or s’mores by the fire.
“People should feel free to duck in to warm up, but not to socialize,” said Winter Recreation Program Manager Pamela McConkey. “Visitors should assess the situation before going in a hut: Does the risk of hypothermia outweigh the risk of exposure to COVID?”
A few things to consider:
❄ Most huts are small and warm, with little ventilation.
❄ The huts will not be cleaned to Centers for Disease Control (CDC) standards.
❄ Recent CDC guidance states that 15 minutes is the longest people should stay in such indoor facilities with people outside their household.
❄ Visitors should wear face coverings, practice social distancing and bring supplies such as hand sanitizer and toilet paper.
Other indoor facilities may not be accessible, or open hours may be reduced.
The Mount Tahoma Trails Association huts near Mount Rainier will not open this year due to COVID-19.
The following huts have announced plans to open — or stay closed — so far this season:
❄ Mount Spokane State Park's Vista House — open weekends and holidays for takeout food only.
❄The small warming huts along the Mount Spokane trails (Nova Hut, Snowshoe Hut, Tripp Knob Hut, CCC Cabin) — open for emergency use.
❄ The Puffer Butte and Snowflake huts at Fields Spring State Park — open for emergency use.
❄ Puffer Butte and Wohelo Lodge — closed.
❄ The warming hut at the Marble Mountain Sno-Park trailhead — open.
❄ Road 1 and Road 92 Mount Tahoma Trails Association huts — closed.
❄ The U.S. Forest Service may open shelters on the lands it manages. USFS huts sit miles apart and can be difficult to reach. Parks staff urge visitors to contact the appropriate ranger district to inquire about the status of their shelters.
1The Mount St. Helens Trac Riders snowmobile club operates the warming hut at Marble Mountain Sno-Park. The hut will be open this season.
All are welcome to play in the snow... and come out alive
After public lands reopened last spring, many Washingtonians sought refuge in nature. Thus, a host of new outdoorspeople were born.
The outdoor industry, including public agencies, realized new users needed information to take care of the land and stay safe — not just from COVID-19 but also from the elements. The stakes only get higher when people face additional, sometimes life-threatening weather and terrain challenges.
Parks staffers implore snow travelers, especially those new to winter recreation, to do advance research and prepare for emergencies:
❄ Keep emergency gear in the car.
❄ Carry the 10 essentials on the trail, plus hand and footwarmers.
❄ Know the trails. Use maps and GPS; carry a portable charger for longer battery life.
❄ Know weather and avalanche forecasts; keep an eye out for changing conditions.
❄ Don’t go alone. Let people know your plans, ETA and panic time.
Additionally, Search and Rescue may be overwhelmed — and rescues may be delayed or called off in poor weather.
State Parks strives to create a welcoming environment for new and seasoned visitors alike. We want people to fall in love with — and reap the benefits of — the sparkly, snowy wonderlands in our state.
That means having a blast, being safe, not catching COVID — and coming home pumped for your next winter outing!
❄ Sno-Park operations — grooming, plowing and sanitation — are set to begin Dec. 1. Until then, expect a backcountry experience, and please leave no trace.
❄ COVID-19 has made recreation an ever-evolving situation. Follow on Twitter for up-to-date information: @WAStatePks_WNTR
Snowshoers and pup stop at Mount Spokane’s Snowshoe Hut.