OK, gang, with all of that brand new, beautiful snow on our nearby mountains, it's time to have some fun, outdoors.
So, if you like to play with the family on snow sleds, snow saucers or inner tubes, then go dig them out of storage in your backyard, storage sheds, garages or wherever they might be stashed.
And, if you like to play on inner tubes, be sure to check them for any slow leaks and fill them up, nice and tight.
If you are a snowshoer, it's time to check the shoes' lacings and other parts to make sure that they are all in good working order.
If you are a cross country skier, it's time to tune up the "Skinny" skis and to replace the ski poles if they are beat up.
If you are a snowmobiler, make sure your machine is in perfect shape, the oil is changed, the gas tank and spare cans are full and don't forget to also check the trailer and its tires.
Last but not least, be sure that if you need to do so, go out and purchase some new insulated boots, thick gloves, wool caps or various winter clothing.
When all that is done, then you are ready to play on the soft, white, fluffy stuff on our nearby mountains.
Which very neatly leads me to the subject of this week's column:
The many different Sno-Park areas in the State of California.
About now, there are probably a whole bunch of you who have become residents of this area since last winter and who are probably wondering what in the heck is a Sno-Park area?
Well, this is where you find out:
The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of the Calif. Dept. of Parks and Recreation with the assistance of the U.S. Forest Service, the Calif. Dept. of Transportation (CalTrans) and the Calif. Highway Patrol operate a large number of different Sno-Park play areas throughout the Sierra Nevada.
Those many different play areas range all the way from Yuba Pass, just north of Truckee, down to Rock Creek, just north of Bishop.
Some of those Sno-Park play areas in our general area include:
Lake Alpine: On S.R. 4 (the Ebbetts Pass Highway), just past the turn-off to the Mt. Reba Ski Area.
Crowded on weekends. Excellent cross country skiing. Groomed snowmobile trails. Good snow play. Capacity of 35 cars. For information, call Bear Valley Snowmobile in Bear Valley at (209) 753-2323.
Donner Summit: On I-80 at the Castle Peak Exit on the frontage road south of the freeway, just past the Boreal Inn. The trails are on the north.
Very popular cross country ski area. Crowded on weekends. Some snowmobiling. Capacity of 70 cars. For information, call (530) 587-3841.
Echo Summit: On U.S. 50 on the south side at Echo Summit.
Popular snow play area. Extensive sledding hill. Very crowded on weekends and holidays.
Some cross country skiing. No snowmobiles. Snacks, permits and winter recreation gear available on site. Capacity of 100 cars. For information, call (530) 659-0744.
Hope Valley: Just off S.R. 88, two miles west of Picketts Junction, the junction of S.R. 88 to Kit Carson Pass and Jackson and S.R. 89 to Luther Pass and South Lake Tahoe.
Good snow play. Groomed snowmobile trails. Some overnight parking. Snacks, and winter recreation gear are available on site. Capacity of 60 cars. For information, call the Lake Tahoe Winter Sports at (530) 577-2940.
Kit Carson Pass: On S.R. 88.
Very popular cross country ski area. No snowmobiles. Limited snow play area. Capacity of 20 cars. For information, call Sorensen's Resort at (530) 694-2203.
Meiss Meadow: On S.R. 88, 1/4 mile west of Kit Carson Pass.
Very popular cross country ski area. No snowmobiles. Limited snow play. No sled slope. Capacity of 30 cars. For information, call Sorensen's Resort at (530) 694-2203.
Taylor Creek: On the west side of S.R. 89 near Camp Richardson on the southwest side of Lake Tahoe.
Cross country skiing to Fallen Leaf Lake. No snowmobiles, Limited snow play (small sledding hill). Capacity of 20 cars. For information, call the U.S. Forest Service at (530) 573-2600.
Now that you know where the Sno-Park areas are located, here is some more useful information:
The snow-clearing equipment, vehicle parking and toilet facilities are all provided at all of the Sno-Park sites by CalTrans.
The U.S. Forest Service provides the hills, meadows and trails.
"Old Man Winter" provides the snow. Who else!
All you need to provide is yourself, clothing, food, drinks and your own recreational equipment.
That's an unbeatable combination for a fun-filled excursion in the wintertime for you and your family.
-- Parking Permits:
You will need a Sno-Park permit to park at any of those locations to enjoy that combination.
Those permits are very reasonably priced at either $5 per day or $25 for an annual permit (The Sno-Park parking permit season runs Nov. 1 through May 30, each year).
Vehicle parking is on a first-come, first-served basis.
Permits can be obtained at selected locations including these:
Aspen Archery & Outdoors located at 3579 U.S. 50 East, Unit No. 219 at telephone No. 884-1464.
California State Automobile Association D Nevada Division office at 2901 S. Carson St. at 883-2470.
Sporting Rage at 4338 S. Carson St. at 885-7773.
California State Automobile Association D Nevada Division office at 199 E. Moana Lane at 826-8800.
M&T Enterprises at 208 Gentry Way at 827-4734.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort, California S.R. 88 at (209) 258-6000.
North Lake Tahoe:
Alpenglow Sports at 415 N. Lake Blvd. at (530) 583-6917 and The Back Country at 255 N. Lake Blvd. at (530) 581-5861, both at Tahoe City.
South Lake Tahoe:
Longs Drug Store at 2358 Lake Tahoe Blvd. at (530) 544-1500.
South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce at 3066 Lake Tahoe Blvd. at (530) 541-5255.
Mountain Hardware at 11320 Donner Pass Rd. at (530) 587-4844.
Truckee Ranger Station at 10342 Hwy 89 North at (530) 587-3558.
And finally, as a special bit of advice, if you think that you don't need a parking permit, don't be tempted to cheat.
Here's what happens if you park in one of those Sno-Park areas without having the necessary parking permit:
You are subject to being cited, having your vehicle towed away (at your expense) and assessed a fine of $75.
That's an expense combination that can totally ruin your day.
So, be a "Cheapo" and be sure to have that parking permit.
A five dollar bill is a lot easier on your pocketbook than a $75 fine, plus the cost of the towing charges.
Now, that you are armed with all kinds of this useful information, go out one of these upcoming weekends and have fun on the snow!
It's that time of the year.
For information, write to: Sno-Park Permit Sales, California Department of Parks and Recreation, 1725 23rd St., No. 200. Sacramento, Calif. 95816 or call the Sno-Park Hotline at (916) 324-1222 or visit website: www.ohv.parks.ca.gov.