Hiking | Information | Nature | Winter Fun

Winter Safety

December 18, 2022

Central Washington is home to beautiful snow capped mountains, rolling hills, and lush trails that lend themselves to snow recreationists. We invite you to come enjoy these beautiful snow-scapes, responsibly. Here are some guidelines to recreate responsibly.

SAFETY GUIDANCE | RECREATE RESPONSIBLY

  1. Know before you go- Some areas are seasonally closed or have limited hours, and many places become dangerous with winter weather. Research your destination, weather, and road conditions prior to your trip.
  2. Plan and Prepare- Know your limits and your gear. Pack extra layers, waterproof clothing, and safety equipment or beacons for the backcountry. Have a Plan B in case you can’t access your destination.
  3. Build an Inclusive Outdoors- Everyone deserves to experience a winter wonderland. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe, accessible, and welcoming for all identities and abilities.
  4. Respect Others- From mountain tops to shores to prairies, parking can be in short supply in the winter. Park only in safe and legal spaces. Learn to ski kind or tread lightly when skiing, riding, or traversing off-road.
  5. Leave No Trace-  Respect the land, water, wildlife, and indigenous communities.

a) Plan Ahead and Prepare- Know your area- Check avalanche and weather reports prior to your adventure departure, reference maps and local advisory warnings. Especially in high danger areas. Look for safety information and local regulations.

b. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces- Stay on trails and deep snow cover whenever possible. Travel and camp away from avalanche paths, cornices, steep slopes and unstable snow. Choose a campsite on a durable surface like snow, rock, or mineral soil- not tundra or other fragile vegetation and 200 feet from lakes and streams.

  1. Dispose of waste properly- Pack it in, pack it out! For Liquids: 200ft (or 70 big steps) from camp, trails, and water. Where snow is too deep, ground is frozen or regulations prevent you from digging “cat holes”, be prepared to pack out solid human waste. (We recommend a WAG bag.)
  2. Leave what you Find- Don’t disrupt the natural ecosystem by taking rocks, plants, animals,or cultural resources from an area. We suggest you take a photo, get creative and draw, paint, write a song or poem. Leave your inspiration so it can continue to inspire others.
  3. Minimize Campfire Impacts- Need fire to keep warm or to toast a snack? Go for it-where fires are permitted. Use a lantern or headlamp for light and stay within designated fire rings. Keep your fires minimal, burn fallen wood that is smaller than your wrist, and make sure you put your fires out completely.
  4. Respect Wildlife- Winter is an especially vulnerable time for wildlife. The drastic conditions are hard enough for animals to survive. Observe wildlife from a distance, and respect their space. Never follow, approach, or feed animals and always store food and trash securely.
  5. Be considerate of other visitors- Respect other outdoor recreationists and protect the quality of everyone’s experience. When ascending trails- keep clear and yield to downhill traffic. Avoid booting and snowshoeing in skin or ski tracks.
  6. Make it Better- Keep the winter playgrounds clean. Pack out any waste. Consider your responsibility to take action to protect our climate- today’s snow is tomorrow’s water.

PREP:

  1. Research the weather forecast prior to your trip. The PNW is notorious for  minute to minute weather, be extra sure that you are prepared for all the different weather during  your excursion.
  2. Check your destination to be sure that your recreation is in fact permitted. Remember- Snow play is not allowed adjacent to freeway overpasses, exits, and onramps.
  3. Plan to arrive early. The PNW is a haven for many outdoor enthusiasts. Avoid peak hours as parking lots fill up quickly. Pro Tip: arrive in the afternoon when the first wave of adventurers are leaving to score some prime parking. Just make sure that you keep in mind daylight hours.
  4. Have a point of contact outside of your travel group. Let them know where you are going and when you expect to return.

TRAVELING:

  1. Check road conditions before heading to your destination. Check out WSDOT or Pro Tip: download the app for current updates whenever you travel.
  2. Check avalanche conditions in your destination’s local area through Northwest Avalanche Center
  3. Prepare your vehicle for winter travel—with tire chains, shovel, first aid kit, blankets, and flashlights. Traveling through mountain passes may require tire chains; make sure your chains fit your vehicle.
  4. Travel with your gas tank full, you’ll need it in rural areas, bad weather, or where gas stations are few and far between. If you find yourself stranded in bad weather, put your flashers on, call for help, and wait for assistance to arrive.
  5. Park in safe and legal parking areas. Keep in mind it is illegal to park alongside highways.

GEAR

The PNW is notorious for temperamental weather that can change in a matter of minutes. Furthermore you can bet that during the winter months it will be wet. Make sure to dress in layers and pack your gear accordingly.

  1. Dress in layers of warm, waterproof clothing. We recommend a a synthetic or wool, water wicking base, a warmer layer that can be added or subtracted as needed, and a waterproof shell or outer layer.
  2. Pack extra gear in your car including extra food and water, paper maps, shovel, sleeping bag, flashlight, first aid kit, and extra clothing.

APPS

   Although some areas may not have cell service it’s always good to come prepared. Here are a couple apps to download to make sure you travel safe.

  • WSDOT- Washington State Department of Transportation app keeps you informed on the latest travel information.
  • TREAD- Roam the unknown with the Tread® app. It lets you track up to 20 friends on the map of your smartphone and Tread® powersport navigator by using the Group Ride Mobile feature and syncs waypoints, tracks, routes and collections across devices. Easily plan routes on your smartphone with the same maps, vehicle profiles and route preferences you have on your Tread device. Users can import and export GPX files and get access to smart notifications and live weather.

Central Washington can be majestic, but also mighty. Shifting weather and uninformed recreation can dampen any outdoor excursion in a matter of minutes. We love all the outdoor opportunities and winter sports available to us, we just ask that you recreate responsibly.

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