Central Cascade Winter Recreation Council Summary
We attended a meeting of the Central Cascades Winter Recreation Council to introduce CBA and meet other winter recreation groups.
The Annette Lake Sno-Park is new for the 2022-23 season and we proposed a future Sno-Park at Snoqualmie Pass.
On December 3rd, Madelynn Scherrer and Kyle McCrohan represented the Cascade Backcountry Alliance at the Central Cascade Winter Recreation Council (CCWRC). The meeting was a great opportunity to meet leaders of other recreation-focused organizations in the region and learn how to create meaningful change.
Introducing Ourselves to the CCWRC
The CCWRC was formed in 2013 by Karen Bhem to bring together land managers, Washington State Parks, and interest groups like nordic ski clubs. The council meets periodically to discuss opportunities for expanding winter recreation in Washington.
The majority of groups represented at the CCWRC meeting were nordic skiing clubs. Keith Ritland from the Kongsberger Ski Club shared findings from his project installing devices around the nordic trails to count daily users. We also heard from Meany Lodge, a Mountaineers lodge near Stampede Pass.
One other new group represented at the meeting was the Central Cascades Winter Recreation Association. This is a sister organization to the CCWRC that helps other interest groups achieve their goals on the I90 Corridor from North Bend to Blewett Pass.
Jared Treser from the Cle Elum Ranger District represented the Forest Service at the meeting. As we all know, the Forest Service is very underfunded. Fortunately, he explained that the Forest Service supports volunteers clearing official trails and roads. There’s no prior approval needed. If you do clear trails or roads, the Forest Service asks that you report your work to the local ranger afterwards so they can keep track of where more resources are needed and seek additional funding.
When it was our turn to speak, we introduced the Cascade Backcountry Alliance and our mission. We discussed backcountry travel and how our terrain preferences differ from nordic skiers and snowmobilers.
The other groups were very curious about where people go backcountry skiing and snowshoeing. There were also questions about avalanches. In general, there seemed to be a lot of interest from other user groups about the recreational needs of backcountry skiers and snowshoers. We are excited to bring this fresh perspective to the CCWRC.
New and Potential Sno-Parks
One of our top priorities for the meeting was to make suggestions regarding potential new Sno-Parks. One of the people at the meeting was Corey Tolar, the acting manager of the Washington State Parks Winter Recreation Program.
The Sno-Park system is managed by Washington State Parks and serves both motorized and non-motorized users. The program has an annual budget of around $1.7 million, which comes entirely from selling Sno-Park passes to users. There are currently more than 120 Sno-Parks across the state.
Karen explained how the process for creating new Sno-Parks works. First, the proposed location must be accessible to plows and be large enough to allow large vehicles to turn around. New Sno-Parks must receive approval from the regional land manager, who is usually the Forest Service District Manager.
Once a new Sno-Park is approved, Washington State Parks has to find a contractor to plow the road and parking lot. WSDOT has traditionally been the contractor for most Sno-Parks. However, because of a shortage of plow drivers at WSDOT, State Parks is currently working to hire more independent contractors to maintain Sno-Parks.
We brought two ideas for new Sno-Parks along the I90 corridor to the meeting: one around Annette Lake and another around Snoqualmie Pass.
We were happy to find out that Washington State Parks was one step ahead of us in planning a Sno-Park around Annette Lake. This is the newest Sno-Park and will be open for the 2022-23 season. It’s located just south of exit 47 on I90 and enables snowshoers to follow the trail towards Annette Lake. Skiers can use the Sno-Park to access the slopes of Silver Peak and Humpback Mountain.
Our second idea was to create a Sno-Park in the PCT North parking lot at Snoqualmie Pass. It turns out that others at the CCWRC meeting have raised this spot as a potential Sno-Park in the past.
There are some challenges to creating a Sno-Park here. Most significantly, the sheer volume of snow to move would require specialized equipment, not just a plow. There also needs to be a place to put that snow throughout the winter.
We suggested that one potential solution would be to work with the Summit at Snoqualmie as the plowing contractor for this Sno-Park. The Summit would be paid for its services and creating a new Sno-Park at Snoqualmie Pass could help relieve parking pressure on Summit West. We hope that it could be a mutually beneficial arrangement.
Learning from the Winter Recreation Community
Overall, the CCWRC meeting was very insightful and a great opportunity to introduce the Cascade Backcountry Alliance to some influential people in the world of winter recreation. There was an impressive amount of positive energy in the room. Multiple individuals noted that the group has accomplished tasks, such as installing pay stations at Sno-Parks, that felt like long shots at the time.
Patience and commitment to action will be required to create change, but we left the meeting with a sense of a shared purpose. Thank you to Karen and everyone at the CCWRC for inviting us to join!