Weekend storms drop enough snow to allow Paradise snowplay area to open Saturday

Staff writerJanuary 15, 2014 


Adrian Heller of Tacoma, rides down a run at the snowplay area at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. (Drew Perine/Staff photographer file)


Get your plastic sleds, inflable snow riders and inner tubes ready, the snowplay area at Mount Rainier National Park will open Saturday – in time for the three-day holiday weekend.

The announcement comes nearly a month later than park officials had planned to open the area at Paradise.

“The dump of snow we got last weekend, combined with mild weather through the weekend will give our crews time to groom the run and clear snow away from buildings,” Young said. “Barring any extreme freak weather or equipment breakdowns, we should be good to go for sledding beginning Saturday.”

Heading into last weekend, the snowpack at Paradise was hovering just under the 60-inch minimum park officials want to protect vegetation in the area and have enough snow to create safety berms.

But heavy snows raised the snowpack from 57 inches on Jan. 8 to a maximum of 105 inches on Monday. Warm weather and settling since then has already dropped the snowpack to 96 inches Wednesday morning.

For visitor safety, only soft sliding devices are allowed, such as flexible sleds, inner tubes and saucers. No hard toboggans or runner sleds can be used.

Young also reminded drivers that all vehicles must carry snow chains.

In addition, the road from Longmire to Paradise closes at 5 p.m. Visitors should plan to leave Paradise by 4:30 p.m. to give themselves enough time to safely make their way down the mountain.

The nightly closure is in place as the park strives to maintain seven-day-a-week access to Paradise, while keeping costs down. Park managers said money spent on overtime because the road is open late cuts into money that can be spent during the busy summer season. Last winter, the park kept the road closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to reduce costs.

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