Tire chains are required for two-wheel-drive vehicles beyond Longmire on this sunny day on "The Mountain."

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Big snow is back in the Cascades this winter, and so is snow play on “The Mountain”: The sliding hill at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park opened Friday morning for the first time since the spring of 2014.

The snow-play slope, the only permitted area for sliding in the park that is home to Washington’s highest mountain, usually opens from late December through March, but it didn’t open at all last winter because of inadequate snow coverage.

Park officials require ample snow cover of at least 60 inches before opening the sliding hill, to help protect the fragile alpine meadows at Paradise. Friday’s snow total on the ground was 123 inches, compared with 63 inches on the same date last year. Friday, the National Weather Service forecast dry and cool conditions, with a freezing level of 8,000 feet, dropping to 4,000 feet by Saturday afternoon.

Friday morning, chains were required on two-wheel-drive vehicles beyond Longmire. All vehicles must carry tire chains or approved traction devices such as “auto socks” in the park in winter.

For safety’s sake, the park allows only “soft” sliding devices: flexible sleds, inner tubes, and saucers. No hard toboggans or runner sleds. There is no charge for use of the sliding hill, other than the customary $20-per-vehicle fee at the park entry gate.

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