Rangers Warn Winter Visitors Of Dangers

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A lack of preparation or common sense can easily turn a White Christmas dream into a weekend nightmare.

So rangers in the Coconino National Forest are warning people to use their heads before they use their sleds.

Forest managers are taking several measures to provide for the safety of winter visitors and protect forest resources. The Coconino National Forest encourages snow players to know the rules before you go: take the time to learn about the conditions and closures in place before heading out.

Road Closures — Many forest roads are seasonally closed due to wet or snowy conditions, especially in higher elevations. Watch for posted closure signs, call one of the district offices, or check the Coconino National Forest Web site at www.coconinoforest.us.

Drivers  are reminded to avoid driving on saturated surfaces to prevent road damage, soil erosion and getting stuck.

Seasonal Closures — Two areas off of Highway 180 are subject to a “Seasonal Motorized Wheeled Vehicle Closure” from  Dec. 1 through March 31. Areas closed to wheeled vehicles:

• The Wing Mountain Vehicle Closure encompasses the cross-country ski trails, the snowplay area, and includes Forest Roads 222, 519, 519A and 222B beyond Wing Mountain parking area.

• The Flagstaff Nordic Center Vehicle Closure includes the trail system and Forest Road 151E.

These seasonal closures are implemented in order to provide managed winter recreation areas.

Snowplay Area Notices — Wing Mountain Snowplay Area is located 10 miles northwest of Flagstaff off of Highway 180 on Forest Road 222B.

This is a fee site managed by Recreation Resource Management under a Special Use Permit with services including parking management, snowplowing, restrooms, and trash receptacles.

For conditions at Wing Mountain, call 602-923-3555 or visit the Web site http://www. snowplayaz.com.

Backcountry Travel on the San Francisco Peaks — Winter recreationists  who plan on snowshoeing or skiing or snowboarding in backcountry areas should think “preparedness.” The most important aspect of preparedness is to provide someone with detailed trip plans, including exact locations and expected trip length. Avalanches are common in the San Francisco Peaks, those attempting backcountry travel should be trained in avalanche awareness and know the most current conditions.

Winter backcountry travel into the Kachina Peaks Wilderness from Arizona Snowbowl or off Snowbowl Road requires a free seasonal backcountry permit. Backcountry permits are available in Flagstaff on weekdays at the Peaks Ranger Station, 5075 N. Highway 89, and the Coconino National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 1824 S. Thompson St. Permits will also be available at Arizona Snowbowl’s Agassiz Lodge, which is open on weekend mornings when the ski area opens. The best source for information on current snow conditions in the San Francisco Peaks backcountry is the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center www.kachinapeaks.org. The Shultz Fire closure affects parts of the San Francisco Peaks backcountry. Closure maps will be distributed to permit holders.

For more information, contact the Coconino National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 928-527-3600, the Flagstaff Ranger District Office at 928-526-0866, or visit www.coconinoforest.us.

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