Snow has arrived just in time for the holidays. Hooray!
This also means the typical holiday trail crowds are on their way. With more people sharing the trails during this ‘peak’ time, a little fresh-snow refresher might be in order. Here are five things to keep in mind about sharing and caring for our trails as you head out on skis, snowshoes, fat bikes, or your feet:
Be aware of high-use trail areas If you’re a local, you likely already know that the Deschutes National Forest’s winter sno-parks along Century Drive from Bend to Mt. Bachelor get busy–fast. These popular areas offer the trifecta: easy trail access, multiple use trails and ample parking. As you plan your adventure, keep in mind that Virginia Meissner, Wanoga, Swampy Lakes, Vista Butte and Dutchman Sno-Parks will all fill up quickly, with often hundreds of trail users on the trails on a given day. Plan perhaps to go outside of peak times, which are holidays and weekends, and especially in the morning.
Try exploring lesser-known trails and sno-parks Spend just a little extra time traveling or researching lesser-known trails, and you’ll likely reap the rewards of fewer people and more parking. Try the Three Creeks Sno-Parks outside of Sisters, Oregon; head south toward La Pine to Newberry National Volcanic Monument, where several cross-country ski trails head off from 10-Mile Sno-Park. Or, check out Walton Lake and Bandit Springs in the Ochoco Mountains outside of Prineville.
Be respectful and aware: nighttime adventures There’s simply nothing like silently gliding over snow under the stars or a full moon. Night or day, remember to be reverent of others that may be out there: people, and all the forest’s wildlife. Keep night experiences serene by keeping groups small. Give wildlife a head start without scaring them; gently make your presence known as you go. And, of course, bring plenty of layers, stick together and be prepared to keep everyone safe!
Always practice Leave No Trace principles With thousands of forest visitors a week, it’s crucial that we practice and encourage Leave No Trace principles. Wherever you go, there should be no evidence from your visit. In winter, pack out everything you bring, including food scraps and human waste. When visiting shelters, certain birds like “camp robbers” and chipmunks may seem “cute”, coming very close looking for human food handouts. DON’T DO IT. Feeding wildlife disrupts their natural rhythms and the forest’s food chain.
- Be prepared Winter is also a time when those with less snow experience might be inspired to venture out Whether new to snow sports or a winter veteran, when the weather is cold, everyone should follow these sound safety practices:
Dress appropriately by wearing and carrying layers, avoiding cotton. When cotton gets wet, it doesn’t dry and can lead to hypothermia.
Know where you’re going. Share your plans with someone and the time you expect to return. Bring plenty of water and food.
A headlamp is also good to have in your pack during these short days of early winter.