PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) – The winter recreation season is in full swing, and the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service officials are reminding everyone that adventures are better and safer when you head out well prepared.
Recreation on public land in winter presents many safety challenges. The recent streams of visitors have put winter travelers in unsafe situations. Vehicles are stuck on snowy roads and crowded parking lots. Improper parking has even endangered public safety by slowing traffic and blocking access routes for emergency vehicles
Plan your expedition carefully, whether it’s downhill skiing at a ski resort; Snowshoeing on open trails or a scenic winter drive along the coast.
How do you ensure success? Know before you go. Prepare for adventure and be ready to navigate changing situations – bring the 10 essentials, pack a winter car kit and check road and weather conditions before leaving home.
“Take the time to gather additional gear, including water, food, warm gloves and clothing, headlamps or flashlights, sleeping bag, and a fire starter,” said Shawnee Hinman, director of special-purpose recreation at the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Region.
Research how to get to a specific location, don’t just rely on GPS.
“Navigation apps can guide you on dirt roads in the winter,” said David Ballenger, BLM Oregon-Washington recreation manager. “Call ahead if you’re unfamiliar with the road conditions and always carry a paper map as many areas don’t have cell service.”
Remember that travel conditions may vary between your home and destination. It may be warm in Portland or Seattle, but it’s cold and frigid in the nearby mountains.
“Have more gear on hand than you’re likely to need in case you have to wait out a storm or get stuck in the snow,” Hinman said.
AIMS: There are numerous winter recreation areas on public lands in the Pacific Northwest:
- forest service: Manages 24 million acres of public land in the region with more than 3,000 outdoor recreation areas, facilities and programs. View an interactive recreational map with links to Oregon’s 11 national forests and grasslands; five National Forests in Washington and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area along the border of both states. For more winter travel tips, visit the Pacific Northwest Winter Recreation Safety Tips website.
- Land Administration Office: Manages 16 million acres of public lands in Oregon and Washington. Outdoor winter recreation opportunities abound throughout the BLM, with great access to snow at higher elevations. Learn more at https://www.blm.gov/visit.
- Sno Parks in Oregon and Washington: Provide opportunities for general snow games like snow tubing and sledding, non-motorized activities like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and motorized activities like snowmobiling. Snow parks may be located on state or federal land, but require a state-issued permit that pays for snow removal and winter facility maintenance.
- Sno-Park parking permits: One-day or seasonal parking permits can be purchased online or from authorized dealers in Oregon and Washington (you must purchase a pass valid for the state you intend to use it in; Oregon and Washington passports are not replacable) . Display your pass on your vehicle’s dashboard, visible through the lower left corner of your windshield.
SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS: Measure your safety awareness this winter and learn how you can #RecreateResponsibly.
Prepare for weather and more
- Check the weather forecast before you travel. Weather conditions can vary greatly, especially on the mountain passes. The National Weather Service website is a good place to start. Also check the NOAA. Use SNOTEL to view daily and seasonal snow data by station or basin.
- Make sure your snow play activity is allowed at your destination. Remember that snow play is not allowed next to freeway overpasses, exits, and driveways.
- Plan to arrive at your destination early and avoid rush hours as parking lots fill up quickly. Consider arriving in the afternoon when the first wave of visitors may be leaving. If your destination isn’t available, you have a plan B and a plan C.
- Let someone who is not traveling with you or your group know where you are going and when you expect to return.
- Check road conditions before driving to your destination. review Oregon’s tripcheck.com with live webcams or Washington’s Travel data in real time.
- Check avalanche conditions at the Northwest Avalanche Center.
- Equip your vehicle for winter travel – with snow chains, shovel, first aid kit, blankets and flashlights. Traveling through mountain passes may require snow chains; Make sure your chains fit your vehicle.
- Drive with a full tank and stop frequently to refuel; Keep your tank at least half full while driving. Gas stations can be few and far between in some areas. Plan your next stop before you leave your current one.
- Most BLM and Forest Service roads are not maintained for winter driving. Many roads will be closed for the season at the first significant snowfall or on December 1st, whichever comes first.
- If you’re stuck, stay in your car, turn on your turn signals, call for help, and wait for help to arrive.
- Park only in authorized areas. Do not park along highways! Wrongly parked vehicles block access for emergency vehicles and impede snow clearing.
- Put on layers of warm, waterproof clothing and pack extra layers.
- Make sure you have the right gear in your car, including an emergency kit with extra food and water in case you get stranded. If you go into the backcountry, carry avalanche beacons.
- Avenza, but you may not be able to charge your device if you are stranded.