Get your plastic sleds, inflatable snow riders and inner tubes ready: The snowplay area at Mount Rainier National Park will open Saturday — in time for the three-day Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend.
The announcement from chief ranger Chuck Young came 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. Heavy snows raised the snowpack from 57 inches Jan. 8 to 105 inches Monday. The snowpack stood at 96 inches Wednesday.
For visitor safety, only soft sliding devices such as flexible sleds, inner tubes and saucers will be allowed. No hard toboggans or runner sleds can be used.
Young also reminded drivers that all vehicles must carry tire 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.thenewstribune.com/outdoors