Rain in the valley often means snow in the mountains, and our high-elevation neighbors to the north and east are welcoming a fresh batch of winter revelers to their parks.
The Mt. Shasta Ski Park opened for its 25th season on Tuesday, more than a week ahead of schedule, said Jim Mullins, the park’s marketing director.
“We had a beautiful day,” he said. “We were able to open with the whole mountain open – all three major lifts – and with 18 of the 32 runs groomed.”
The park’s daytime hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Night skiing, which lasts til 9 p.m., starts Dec. 17. A weekday (Monday through Thursday) lift ticket is $29 for an adult, $39 on weekends.
New this season to the 425-acre park off Highway 89 is a third parking lot, able to accommodate 300 vehicles. It is located below the second lot, with a shuttle bus to escort people to the park.
“That will really help,” Mullins said. “On busy weekends, people would get turned away because of parking.”
Also new this year: high-speed pizza ovens, a relocated retail shop on the main plaza deck, a coffee and pastry shop by the ticket office, and a Bison Snowcat – “for better grooming and building terrain park features,” Mullins said.
Despite the recession, the park had “good” skiing numbers last season and attracts visitors who don’t want to spend more money at bigger ski areas, he said.
“We’re one of the least expensive lift tickets in the western U.S.,” Mullins said. “We’re getting a lot of people from out of the area coming here instead of Tahoe.”
The ski park will host a New Year’s Eve extravaganza, with skiing until 11:30 p.m., music by Redding band The Billies, fireworks, a prime rib dinner, and a torchlight parade, where the lights are turned off and skiers hold lighted torches.
To the east, Lassen Volcanic National Park is welcoming snowshoers, cross-country skiers and snow campers. Though the main road through the park closed Nov. 8 due to snow, the road is plowed to the Manzanita Lake area on the north side and to the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center on the south side.
“We get very popular right after Christmas Day as people are looking for things to do,” said Karen Haner, public information officer.
Each winter, the park offers free one- to two-hour ranger-guided snowshoe treks on the weekends, starting from the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. Dating back 20 years, these increasingly popular excursions were featured recently in The Washington Post. Participants must pay the park entrance fee and are welcome to leave a $1 donation to help with snowshoe maintenance costs. This year’s guided walks start Dec. 26 and take place at 1:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through April 3.
During the week, the park becomes an educational wonderland for dozens of schoolchildren who learn about winter ecology and engage in activities such as building snow shelters. “It’s a lot of fun for them,” Haner said.
Lassen Peak, the park’s 10,457-foot volcano, attracts climbers year-round, even when snow hides the trail.
“Just before Thanksgiving, we had people climb the peak,” Haner said. “It was stormy.”
-Photos courtesy of Mt. Shasta Ski Park and Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Candace L. Brown has been a magazine and newspaper journalist since 1992. She lives in Redding and can be reached at email@example.com.