For many snow enthusiasts in Tahoe, the resort scene has lost its’ luster. Often overcrowded and confining, these pay-to-play establishments make some feel claustrophobic. These people—often locals—utilize a different and much less restricted resort: the wide-open wilderness. Under the SnoPark system, people can pay a small fee for a SnoPark permit that allows them access to any of fourteen different locations. A SnoPark season pass/vehicle permit is just $25, and a day only costs $5; compared to the many hundreds of dollars a ski pass will cost, this is an amazing bargain for the backcountry oriented recreationist.
Equipped with restroom facilities, the SnoParks serve as a launch point for people going cross-country skiing, backcountry skiing/riding, and/or snowmobiling. Many of these areas lie directly next to or within proximity to outstanding mountain terrain that is only accessible by parking at the SnoPark. As backcountry recreation has gained popularity over the years, so too have the SnoParks; on powder-days, these parking lots are always full of trucks, dogs and AT setups in all manner of coming and going. In fact, sometimes these parking areas can get as packed as some popular ski areas—so come early to assure your spot.
Some SnoParks allow overnight parking for extended tours and hut-trips, but make sure that the one you’re utilizing allows such access, otherwise you risk a fine, or potentially a tow. Also, be sure to pay the SnoPark permit fee, or you may end up paying a much heavier fine ($75) for not participating in the overall program. In addition to helping raise money for localized Forest Service offices, the SnoPark has the additional benefit of allowing more efficient rescue in case of things going poorly for your party in the backcountry. For a complete list/map of SnoPark locations, go to: http://www.tahoe.com/2011/01/28/california-sno-parks/
If the solitude of the wilderness is more your style than a crowded ski resort, look into purchasing a SnoPark permit and start recreating on your own terms…