Virginia Meissner: 14-75 inches
Wanoga: 4-5 feet
Swampy Lakes: 4-5 feet
Edison Butte: 14-75 inches
Sno-park snow depths:
Dutchman Flat: 14-75 inches
Low- to high-elevation trails are under snow, anywhere from a couple of inches to 120 inches for the backcountry. South Sister maybe has 10 feet or more of snow.
90 percent of winter trails have good snow depth, but low-snow hazards exist at the lowest elevations.
• The popular sites for the holiday season (Dutchman, Meissner, etc.) typically will be at maximum capacity on the weekends, as they were last weekend; Dutchman and Meissner were overflowing.
When sno-parks reach parking capacity, it is important to respect the no-parking zones. Those zones are for emergency vehicle access only. In the unfortunate situation that an emergency vehicle is needed, it causes problems when those spots are taken by recreationists. Before you park, make sure you are not under a no-parking sign.
Overflow parking for Meissner is available at Swampy Sno-park and there is groomed trail access to Meissner by way of the Tangent Ski Loop.
• Wanoga Snoplay Area is in good condition, though it may be bumpy and rough. Please do not build jumps. The shelter is well stocked with firewood; for outdoor firepits, please bring your own wood.
• Another issue that arises every winter: conflict between snowshoe and ski trails.
Snowshoers are welcome to use the standard blue diamond ski trails but should not walk on the ski tracks. Snowshoers are encouraged to seek out snowshoe trails where available and make use of those before using the ski trails. Inevitably snowshoers will end up walking on a broken ski track, and because snowshoes have a wider track and there is no center line it makes things more difficult for them. On the flip side, skiers have received injuries when a ski track has been obliterated by snowshoe tracks. There are designated snowshoe trails (blue diamond with a yellow snowshoe symbol) at Meissner, Swampy, Dutchman and Edison sno-parks — a total of 22 miles of trail. Skiers should be aware that if a snowshoer has set the track in a ski trail, the skier should set a separate track to the side, preferably leaving a 2- to 3-foot space between the them. The motto for skiers and snowshoers is “share the snow, not the tracks."
• Bulletin boards at all the sno-parks provide valuable safety information and maps. Stop by and look at the bulletin board to check for area restrictions, motorized closures and dog restrictions — subject to citation — and to pick up a map.
There are plenty of dog-friendly areas throughout the Deschutes National Forest. One is Wanoga Snoplay Area, which has a dog-friendly trail about 3 kilometers long that is also open to skiers.
An important dog closure to be aware of is the north side of the Cascade Lakes Highway from Meissner Sno-park to Todd Lake. All of the trail systems, including Tumalo Mountain, are currently closed to dogs. The reason is not only to avoid user conflict, but also to protect the watershed.
Check the weather
Under heavy snowfall, visibility can be quite poor. It may be best to stick to lower elevations and stay on well marked trails when snow is expected. The backcountry can also become unstable during unsettled weather. Last week there were reports of a couple of avalanches on Tumalo Mountain. Use common sense and have the skill levels for navigating and assessing danger level if you choose to venture toward the backcountry slopes.
Go prepared for winter highway conditions and heavy traffic — traction tires, slow speeds and common sense are valuable when heading into the backcountry by highway.
“Summer" trails should be considered snow-challenged, with a foot or more even at low elevations. Hiking and biking may be difficult.