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Finally, Enough Snow For Play At Paradise In Mount Rainier National Park


How can you tell the Pacific Northwest has been enduring a drought? There hasn't been enough snow -- until just recently -- to open the snow play areas at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park. But they'll open tomorrow.

Park officials say last weekend's storms brought the snow depth at Paradise to 112", providing enough snow to open the snow play runs beginning tomorrow. Conditions permitting, the runs will be open through the three-day holiday weekend, as will the Jackson Visitor Center at Paradise.

The park road crew has been clearing the 3.5 feet of snow from roads, parking lots, and around the buildings at Paradise. Once completed, they will turn to grooming the snow play runs in time to open Saturday morning.

The weather forecast appears to be good for the entire weekend, but there is always the chance that roads may be impeded or closed due to weather conditions or other unforeseen issues. Check road and weather conditions before coming to the park.

The park's twitter feed provides the latest on road status. And you can view conditions at Paradise, Longmire, and Carbon River on the park webcams.

The road to Paradise is open seven days a week, weather and staffing permitting, with nightly closures. Rangers and snow plow operators evaluate road, weather, avalanche, and staffing conditions each morning before making a decision on whether it is safe to open the gate to Paradise. Even on sunny days avalanche danger and icy roads can create hazards requiring the road to be closed.

All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when driving in the park from November 1 through May 1. Traction tires or chains may be required on any type of vehicle, at any time.

The Longmire to Paradise road hours are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily, under ideal conditions. The road may close early or remain closed the entire day due to avalanche danger, severe weather, or from a shortage of the necessary staffing to maintain safe access.

Visitors must leave Paradise by 4:30 p.m. to clear the Longmire gate by its 5 p.m. closure. The uphill gate at Longmire closes at 4 p.m.

Longmire is open daily except in the case of extreme weather or road conditions. The Carbon River Road is closed to vehicles just past the entrance parking lot, but is open to pedestrians and bicycles.

Recreationists should be prepared for winter conditions by carrying the Winter 10 Essentials: shovel (avalanche rescue); Full Length Insulated Sleeping Pad; Stove & Fuel (melt water); Heat Packs; Goggles & Wool/Pile Hat; Gloves (waterproof/lined); Avalanche Transceiver; Avalanche Probe; Reliable Weather & Avalanche Forecasts; and Map, Compass, & GPS (with extra batteries).

Be aware of hazards such as flowing creeks covered by snow and avalanche danger, and be able to navigate in a winter environment. Heed all cautions or warnings—weather can change suddenly in extreme ways. Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety.


This is one of the latest Paradise snowplay openings on record. Numerous injuries and even fatalities over the years have caused the Park to restrict snow sliding to one supervised area and to ban hard-runner sleds or toboggens. The snowplay area is a series of inclined trenches with a large grade reversal at the bottom for stopping. A minimum five-foot snowpack is needed to avoid damage to the underlying meadow by the heavy equipment used to construct and maintain the runs.

The park's policy of requiring ALL vehicles to carry tire chains seems a bit odd when Suburu and other owner's manuals say they can damage the AWD system. Even 4WD vehicles have been required to chain up a few times this winter, but I noticed none of the NPS vehicles had chains on those days. It's not clear what the criteria is or how the rangers decide when chains are required, since all the ranger vehicles are 4WD. I'd bet money the person making the decision has never put on chains in their life, let alone unwrapped broken ones around an axle on a blind curve from being required to chain up on bare asphalt. Especially annoying is when the chain requirement is lifted during the day, but no system is in place to inform downhill traffic that chains are no longer required. I was told it takes years for the NPS to get a simple road sign approved!

I've wondered about the chain requirements, too. They don't seem to make much sense to me.

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