Trail Update

Winter recreation begins

Published Dec 12, 2012 at 04:00AM

General snow line varies, from 4,000 feet in the north to 5,000 feet in eastern areas of Deschutes National Forest. Low-elevation winter trails and sno -parks lack snow, mid-elevation trails and sno-parks are snow-challenged to marginal while higher elevation trails and sno-parks are fair to good with snow, but low-snow hazards do exist on and off trail. Intermittent trail grooming is under way, with limited grooming started out of Virginia Meissner, Wanoga and Dutchman sno-parks. As snow depth increases, so will winter trail grooming schedules.

Summer roads to winter trails. Hundreds of miles of summer Forest Service roads on the Deschutes transform into winter ski, snowshoe and snowmobile trails during the winter months. Two to 14 feet of snow will cover many of these roads, making for great winter trail conditions. Unfortunately, not all drivers are aware of the closures and some choose to ignore them. Nordic skiing or snowmobiling on vehicle-rutted trails has led to accidents with injuries.

Dec. 1 is the date much of this “roads to winter trails” transformation takes place, with road closures in effect all along state Highway 46, from mile post 12 just southwest of Bend to Dutchman Sno-park and beyond to Road 61, the Crescent Cutoff. Other seasonal road to winter trail closures include: Todd Lake to Three Creek Lakes area ; Santiam Pass area ; Road 16 and McKenzie Pass Highway on Sisters Ranger District ; Tumalo Falls Road ; dozens of roads in the Newberry National Volcanic Monument area ; and Road 60 and connecting roads around Crescent Lake. Most of these road closures are either gated and/or posted with “road closed” signs. Please refer to winter trail maps or call Forest Service offices for further information, and, of course, abide by these seasonal road closures.

Temporary winter trail signing. Once the snow pack begins to accumulate at higher elevations, Forest Service trail personnel begin installing several hundred winter signs on snow poles. At this point, approximately 85 percent of winter snow poles/signs on Deschutes National Forest winter trails and in the backcountry are installed.

Typically, orange-colored poles and signs provide critical information for snowmobilers while the blue poles and signs provide information for skiers and nonmotorized backcountry users.

When out and about on winter trails, be sure to watch for and pay close attention to winter signs, whether they are attached to trees or at the end of a blue or orange snow pole.

— Bulletin staff