OK, they’re calling it: No snow play at Paradise this year.
This announcement Wednesday from Mount Rainier National Park:
“With the continuation of mild weather, low snowfall at the Paradise elevation of the mountain, and little snowfall projected for the foreseeable future, park Superintendent Randy King advises that the Paradise snow-play area will not open this season.”
In a typical year, the snow-play area would have been open from the Christmas holiday period through the end of March. This season, there has not been adequate snow by park standards to groom the runs for tubes and saucers.
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Park rules say a minimum of 5 feet of snow is deemed necessary to protect the area’s fragile subalpine meadows before recreational sliding is allowed on a hill near the Paradise Inn and Jackson Visitor Center. While some areas at Paradise, such as the park’s weather station, have recorded the 5-foot minimum, other areas, including the snow-play area, haven’t measured up.
Patches of bare ground are showing in areas that normally don’t see snowmelt until June or July. Parts of the snow-play area have a snowpack of only 18 to 24 inches. It’s a phenomenal reversal from years such as the winter of 1971-72, when Paradise, elevation 5,400 feet, held the world record for measured snowfall in a single year: 1,122 inches, or 93.5 feet.
Park officials say the Paradise snowpack remains adequate for snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and other backcountry uses that have minimum impact on the meadows and resources. Those activities are expected to continue into early spring. Some snow-camping areas are not available due to low snowpack. A 2-foot snow depth is required for camping outside of the Paradise area. Permits, required for all overnight stays, are available from 9 a.m.–4 p.m. daily at the Longmire Information Center (360-569-6575).
Road hours extended
Effective this weekend, the park will extend open hours for the road between Longmire and Paradise. Beginning March 7, the following target schedule will be in effect (weather and conditions permitting) until evening gate closures end for the season (typically in mid-April):
Saturdays and Sundays: Longmire gate will open at 8 a.m. and close at 9 p.m.
Mondays-Fridays: Longmire gate will open at 9 a.m. and close at 6 p.m.
Check the national park’s Twitter feed for up-to-date road conditions and restrictions.