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Mount Rainier staff prepares to welcome holiday visitors

As the holidays approach, park staff is busy preparing for the official start of the season and one of the most popular times to visit.

At present, there is insufficient snow depth to open the Paradise snow play runs this weekend.  Snow depth is currently 59% of normal, with 38” of snow now on the ground.  This is well below the minimum snow depth of five feet required to protect the historic Paradise meadows and cover hazards such as tree tops and rock outcroppings.  Adequate snow depth is also critical for creating snow berms which keep sledders from going off course into parking lots and other hazardous areas.  Park staff continues to monitor snow depth and will open the snow play area at the first opportunity.

Unlike commercial ski and sledding areas, Mount Rainier depends on the kindness of Mother Nature to make snow. Many local ski, sledding, and snow play areas make their own snow and thus may provide early season opportunities.

Beginning Saturday, December 21, the road between Longmire and Paradise will be open seven days a week, 9:00 am – 5:00 pm daily, provided road, weather and staffing conditions are favorable for safe road access.  Visitors must leave Paradise by 4:30 pm to clear the Longmire gate by its 5:00 pm closure. The uphill gate at Longmire closes at 4:00 pm. The nightly gate closure is in place to keep visitors and snow plow operators safe.  The established day use hours are an attempt to maximize daily access to Paradise while managing operations costs within the limits of available funding.  The park has absorbed over $1,100,000 in cuts to operating funds since 2010 and this is impacting staffing and services.

All vehicles are required to carry tire chains when driving in the park in winter and spring as road and weather conditions can and do change rapidly. Traction tires or chains may be required on any type of vehicle, at any time, so please come prepared for winter driving conditions. Tire chains are available to rent in Ashford.

Mount Rainier National Park is open to public use year-round.  Longmire and the National Park Inn are almost always accessible by vehicle, except during severe weather events.  Hikers might consider the Carbon River Trail, located in the park’s northwest corner.  This lower elevation area is often snow-free during winter and is open to pedestrians and bicycles year-round.

Please check the park twitter feed https://twitter.com/mountrainiernps for the latest on snow play and road status. Winter travel, safety, and recreation information is available on the park website http://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/winter.htm. View conditions at Paradise, Longmire, and Carbon River on the park webcams http://www.nps.gov/mora/photosmultimedia/webcams.htm.

Even without snow play being open, the park is a wonderful place to visit to participate in a variety of winter activities including snowshoeing, snowboarding, skiing, building snowmen and snow caves, hiking, and sightseeing. Camping permits are available for overnight trips.  Recreationists venturing into backcountry areas 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). Please make your visit memorable and safe!

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