The very conditions that draw the public to the forest in the winter are also the ones that can be dangers. Forest managers are taking several measures to provide for the safety of winter visitors and protect forest resources.
The Coconino National Forest encourages snowplayers to know before you go: take the time to learn about the conditions and closures in place before heading out.
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 and click on “Current Conditions” in the right column. Drivers are reminded to avoid driving on saturated surfaces to prevent road damage, soil erosion and getting stuck.
Seasonal motorized vehicle closures
The Wing Mountain Area off of Highway 180 is subject to a “Seasonal Motorized Wheeled Vehicle Closure” from Dec. 1 through March 31.
The Wing Mountain Vehicle Closure encompasses the cross-country ski trails, the snowplay area, and includes portions of Forest Roads 222, 518, 222A and 222B beyond Wing Mountain parking area.
Snowplay area notices
Wing Mountain Snowplay Area will be opening as soon as snow becomes more frequent and allows for adequate coverage. The 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 http://www.snowplayaz.com/.
Backcountry permits and travel on the San Francisco Peaks
Winter recreationists who plan on snowshoeing, 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 will be available in Flagstaff beginning Dec. 2 and weekdays thereafter at the Flagstaff 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 weekend mornings when the ski area opens; and at a free Avalanche Awareness Clinic on Wednesday, Dec. 11. Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center, Coconino County Search and Rescue, and the Coconino National Forest will sponsor the educational event at 6 p.m. on Dec. 11 at the Law Enforcement Facility Auditorium at 911 E. Sawmill Road in Flagstaff.
The best source for information on current snow conditions in the San Francisco Peaks backcountry is the Kachina Peaks Avalanche Center www.kachinapeaks.org.