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It's International Snowmobile Safety Week from January 12-18, so use caution in the backwoods on your snowmobile, by observing designated routes or familiar trails and don't drink and snowmobile.

Alcohol was a factor in a third of the snowmobile deaths in each of the last three years. Other contributing factors appear to have been operating at an excessive speed and poor visibility.

The vast majority of accidents involving snowmobiles result from carelessness on the part of the person operating the sled and are usually avoidable. The best way to stay safe while operating a snowmobile is to stay on marked trails or areas that are designated as being open to snowmobiles. Sled operators should stay away from unfamiliar areas, especially at night.

Most snowmobile accidents occur as the result of collisions with fixed objects such as trees, stumps, rocks, logs, fences and other objects hidden or obscured by the snow.

Basic Snowmobile Safety And Ethics:

  • Be sure your snowmobile is in top mechanical condition.
  • Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling.
  • Use a full-size helmet, goggles, or face shield to prevent injury from twigs, stones, ice chips and flying debris.
  • Know the terrain you are going to ride.
  • Know the weather forecast and ice and snow conditions in the area.
  • Always use a "buddy system." Never ride alone or unaccompanied.
  • Do not pursue or harass wildlife; avoid areas posted for wildlife and natural area protection.
  • Be sure your snowmobile is equipped with a properly operating lighting system.
  • Avoid bodies of water if you are not familiar with the thickness of the ice or water currents.
  • Respect the property and rights of landowners.
  • Obey all federal, state and local rules regulating operation of snowmobiles.

In addition to a comprehensive review of snowmobile laws, snowmobiling courses offer safety tips, instruction on handling a snowmobile in different snow conditions, emergency first aid, clothing and equipment needed for cold weather survival, responsibility to the environment and wildlife, and sled maintenance and repair.



Avalanches are powerful, unpredictable and can occur at any time. The best way to avoid an avalanche is to recognize the warning signs and to steer clear of avalanche-hazard areas.

Two Types Of Snow Avalanches:

  1. Loose snow avalanches that begin in a small area, but grow larger, taking on more snow as they descend; and
  2. Slab avalanches that start as a large slide. A slab avalanche usually has a well-defined fracture line where moving snow breaks away from stable snow. There are usually chunky blocks of snow in the slide. The fracture line may be visible before the avalanche slides off the mountain.

Avalanches are more likely to occur during or after a snowstorm if snow has been blowing and drifting. This new snow hasn't bonded to the underlying snow pack and is unstable. Avalanches may occur on slopes ranging from 20 to 60 degrees.

Snow on north-facing slopes (in the Northern Hemisphere) is more dangerous in mid-winter. South-facing slopes are especially dangerous during spring, especially on sunny days. Recent avalanche activity is a strong warning that the area is unstable. Historic avalanche areas can be identified by lack of vegetation, such as trees or brush, or by where existing vegetation is bent or broken. Avalanche chutes are particularly noticeable in heavily forested areas because the snow path is void of the tree cover that surrounds it.

A recreationist's safest route is on a ridge top, slightly on the windward side and away from cornices. Cornices, the overhanging banks of snow on ridges, are more likely to develop on leeward slopes because the wind carries the snow from the windward slope over the ridge and deposits it on the leeward side.

The next safest travel route is out in the valley, far from the bottom of slopes. Recreationists should not cross the lower part of slopes, especially long, open areas or known avalanche paths. Avoid disturbing cornices from above or below.

Keep in mind that the type of terrain, the weather conditions and amount of snow pack are the three factors that create avalanche conditions. Human activity is the most frequent cause of avalanches.

Before recreating in avalanche country you should inspect and practice using your avalanche survival gear, which is a transceiver, probe pole and shovel.

If You Are Caught In An Avalanche:

  • Discard all equipment and, if you are riding a snowmobile, get away from your machine.
  • Make swimming motions and try to stay on top of the snow; work your way to the side of the avalanche.
  • As you feel the avalanche slow, try to thrust your hand or another part of your body above the snow surface.
  • Before the snow settles, move your arm in front of your face to clear an air space.
  • Try not to panic; you need to preserve oxygen.

If You Are An Avalanche Survivor Or An Observer:

  • Keep your eyes fixed on the moving mass of snow in which the victim is trapped.
  • Mark the place where you last saw the victim.
  • If the victim has communications gear, use an electronic beacon first to locate them. Otherwise search for the victim directly down slope from the last sighting when the snow stops moving. Use a probe pole, ski pole or stick to probe the snow.
  • Stay with the victim, unless help is only a few minutes away. After 30 minutes, the victim has only a 50 percent chance of survival.
  • When the victim is found, treat him or her for suffocation, shock and hypothermia.

Avalanche advisories are also available on the Internet at www.avalanche.org




The most important holiday activity for winter guests in SalzburgerLand is skiing. Those who would like to try more than one ski region on their holidays will be well served with the Salzburg Super Ski Card. Carefree skiing and snowboarding on over 2000 kms of slopes in 15 ski regions - for you to decide yourself where and when you want to use your Salzburg Super Ski Card. It is valid as a 3-12 holiday ski pass or as a Salzburg Super Ski Card for a choice of ten individual days - the whole winter long. For more information contact www.salzburgsuperskicard.com





Start your Vermont ski experience at New York's Penn Station; Amtrak offers New York to Vermont Ski Train.

It's Friday. After a week of work, a ski weekend in snow-covered Vermont can be the perfect way to unwind and rejuvenate the spirit and body. What could be better? Begin an affordable ski weekend with a fun, relaxing Amtrak train ride to Vermont.

Amtrak and a Vermont ski holiday are a great combination any time. The Winter 2003 special Friday ski train makes them an even more attractive duo.

Through mid-April 2003, Amtrak is offering a special ski train on the Ethan Allen Express. The special train departs from New York Penn Station at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays, with a return trip departing from Rutland, Vermont, at 5 p.m. on Sundays, to allow two full days of Vermont ski fun.

The Ski Train Features:

During February: Vermont entertainment, including Vermont music, specialty food and beverages, trivia contests with prizes, and drawings for skis, Vermont weekend getaways or other Vermont items.

February through April: Reserve packages through Amtrak Vacations. Package options are varied, including both Killington and Pico Resorts with skiing on seven mountains, 31 lifts and more than 100 lodging and dining options from which to choose. Reservations may be made through Amtrak Vacations, 800/321-8684.




The effects from the global weather phenomenon known as "El Nino" have already been felt this season with an increase in severe weather across southern and eastern portions of the United States. This means more snow for skiing. This trend should continue well into 2003 according to a Texas-based storm chasing group.

"The effects of El Nino are now underway," says Tempest Tours founder and president, Martin Lisius. "A persistent and wet sub-tropical jet pattern has set up over the southern U.S. and should remain there for some time. If this pattern remains into spring, it will likely yield more snow and severe weather, and a more active tornado season than 2002," he said.

El Nino, or 'ENSO" (El Nino Southern Oscillation), is the warming of water off the Pacific coast of South America. The warmer water influences weather patterns on a global scale. Significant El Nino events often produce a persistent upper flow pattern across the southern U.S., which means a higher frequency of stormy weather in the same region.

"Persistent upper flow across traditionally tornado-prone areas of the U.S., like the southern and central states, will typically yield more tornadoes," Lisius said. "There was an exceptionally low tornado count for the U.S. for most of 2002. In fact, tornado activity across Tornado Alley has been relatively low since 1999. And, if there's one thing that's easy to predict about weather, it's that chaos follows order. Even without the current El Nino pattern, this principle of atmospheric physics suggests that 2003 could be a big year for severe weather across the U.S.," he said.

Tempest Tours conducts storm chasing expeditions each spring in Tornado Alley, a region stretching from Texas to the Dakotas. Guests travel from around the world to track storms with the group's renowned team of storm chasers. The company's learning adventures provide guests with a better understanding of severe weather and tornadoes. More information about Tempest Tours can be acquired by calling 817/274-9313 or by visiting www.TempestTours.com. The site includes tour registration information, a storm glossary and full-motion video clips of tornadoes the team has photographed.

Tempest Tours is a corporate member of the American Meteorological Society, National Weather Association, and the National Safety Council.




Sierra-area California State Park visitors have a variety of snow-fun opportunities available. Whether it's a winter hike, a moonlit tour, cross-country skiing or wildlife viewing, California State Parks has something for everyone. A number of parks are open for day-use (although some roads may not be plowed) and some are open for camping. It's always a good idea to call ahead for current conditions. The department's Sierra District phone number is 530/525-7232.

Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay Snowshoe Hike - Sunday January 19

The park is located 22 miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89. Explore beautiful Emerald Bay State Park in winter. Join a ranger on a hike down to Vikingsholm and explore the park for signs of animals in winter, keep your eye out for our bald eagles. Participants should be in good condition and have some experience the return trip is steep.

Difficulty: Easy down but moderate ascent on the return due to steepness and elevation gain.
Duration: 2-3 hours
Meet: 10 a.m. at the Vikingsholm overlook parking lot at Emerald Bay State Park
Tips: Bring cross-country snowshoe equipment, lunch, snacks, water, sun block eye protection and layered clothing.
Information: (530) 525-9528

Donner Memorial State Park

Donner Party History - Saturday, January 18

The park is located on Donner Pass Road, two miles west of Truckee. There are groomed ski trails throughout park For more information, call 530/582-7892. Come learn some interesting facts about the Donner Party. Where did they camp? Why did they make some of the decisions they did? We will hike approximately 1 to 11/2 miles of easy terrain. Two hours.

Meet: 10 a.m. Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner State Park
Bring: Snowshoes, sturdy waterproof boots, ski poles, snack, and water.
Wear: Layers and be prepared for windy conditions. Wear eye protection.
Information: 530/582-7892

Full Moon Ski Tour - Saturday, January 18

Come ski with on this easy moonlight tour. We will enjoy en-route snacks and look for wilderness nightlife. This will be cancelled if weather turns bad. No snowshoes. Enjoy a campfire at China Cove!

Difficulty: Easy three miles round trip
Duration: 4 hours
Meet: 7 p.m. at the Emigrant Trail Museum parking lot.
Tips: Bring cross-country skis, trail snacks, binoculars and warm clothing.
Information: 530/582-7892

Peak Hike - Sunday, January 19

Participants should be in good condition and have some experience snowshoeing. Moderate to difficult hike with uphill sections. Approximately six miles. 3-4 hours.

Meet: 10 a.m. Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner State Park
Bring: Snowshoes, sturdy waterproof boots, ski poles, snack, and water.
Wear: Layers and be prepared for windy conditions. Wear eye protection.
Information: 530/582-7892

Beginning Snowshoe Hike - Saturday, January 25

Learn the history of snowshoeing and some beginning techniques. If you have never been on snowshoes and would to try it this is the hike for you. Participants should be in fairly good condition. The hike is approximately two miles of varied terrain as you explore the winter wilderness of Donner State Park.

Meet: 10 a.m. Emigrant Trail Museum at Donner State Park
Bring: Snowshoes, sturdy waterproof boots, ski poles, snack, and water.
Wear: Layers and be prepared for windy conditions. Wear eye protection.
Information: 530/582-7892

Grover Hot Springs State Park

The park is located three miles west of Markleeville on Hot Springs Road. Normal pool hours for the winter are Monday through Friday 2 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday and Sunday Noon to 9 p.m. Adult's fee raised from $2 to $3 on January 1, 2003 For more information, call 530/694-2649.

Meadow Ski Tour - Saturday, January 25
Enjoy a pleasant ski around the meadows.

Difficulty: Easy/beginner 2 miles
Duration: 2 hours
Meet: 11 a.m. at Grover Hot Springs upper pool parking lot.
Tips: Bring snowshoes, winter hiking boots, layered clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen. Call to make sure we have snow.
Information: Contact Mark Pupich at 530/694-2649

Sugar Pine Point State Park

The park is located ten miles south of Tahoe City on Highway 89. General Creek Campground is open for winter camping. Groomed ski trails are throughout park. For more information, call 530/525-7232.

Intermediate Cross Country Ski Tour - Saturday, January 18

This is a casual cross-country ski tour for those who would like a guided opportunity to ski the park. The five-mile tour on moderate terrain requires some previous experience with equipment and varying conditions.

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Duration: 3-4 hours
Meet: 10 a.m. at Sugar Pine Point ski trail parking lot near the campground kiosk.
Tips: Bring cross-country ski equipment, lunch, snacks, water, and sun block eye protection.
Information: (530) 525-3341

Full Moon Tour to Olympic Meadows - Saturday, January 18

Come ski with on this easy moonlight tour. Follow the General Creek Drainage, enjoy en-route snacks and look for wilderness nightlife. This will be cancelled if weather turns bad. No snowshoes.

Difficulty: Easy five miles round trip
Duration: 4 hours
Meet: 7 p.m. at the Sugar Pine Point ski trail parking lot.
Tips: Bring cross-country skis, trail snacks, binoculars and warm clothing.
Information: (530) 525-9528

Intermediate Cross-country Ski Tour - Saturday, January 25

This is a casual cross-country ski tour for those who would like a guided opportunity to ski the park. The five-mile tour on moderate terrain requires some previous experience with equipment and varying conditions.

Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Duration: 3-4 hours
Meet: 10 a.m. at Sugar Pine Point ski trail parking lot near the campground kiosk.
Tips: Bring cross-country ski equipment, lunch, snacks, water, and sun block eye protection.
Information: 530/525-3341

Animal Tracks - Sunday, January 26

Animals can leave a good impression in the winter white stuff. What stories do tracks tell? Join us to solve the mysteries and make some tracks of your own.

Difficulty: Easy and fun
Duration: 3 hours
Meet: 10 a.m. at Sugar Pine Point ski trail parking lot near the campground entrance station.
Tips: Bring cross-country snowshoe equipment, layered clothing, binoculars, lunch, snacks, water, sun block, eye protection.
Information: (530) 525-9528

California SNO-PARK Locations

There are a number of off-road locations for snow fun. To find a sales outlet to buy a permit, visitors should check The Sno Park Hotline 916/324-1222

Carson Pass (Alpine County)

Highway 88 at Carson Pass, 60 miles east of Jackson (25 miles south of Lake Tahoe). Very popular cross-country ski area. No snowmobiles. Limited snow play area; no sled slope.

Information: U.S. Forest Service 209/295-4251
Capacity 25 cars

Hope Valley (Alpine County)

Hwy. 88 five miles east of Carson Pass; two miles west of Picketts Junction (Hwy. 88/89). Good snow play; groomed snowmobile trails; cross-country skiing. Some overnight parking.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 775/884-8101
Capacity 80 cars

Lake Alpine (Alpine County)

Highway 4, 30 miles east of Angels Camp, just past turnoff to Mt. Reba Ski Area. Crowded weekends. Excellent cross-country skiing; groomed snowmobile trails. Good snow play; no sled slope.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 209/795-1381
Capacity 35 cars

Meiss Meadow (Alpine County)

Highway 88, 1/4 mile west of Carson Pass (See Carson Pass Sno-Park). Very popular cross-country ski area. No snowmobiles. Limited snow play; no sled slope.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 209/295-4251
Capacity 30 cars

Spicer (Calaveras County)

Highway 4, 24 miles east of Angels Camp at Spicer Road. Good snow play; groomed snowmobile trails; cross-country skiing.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 209/795-1381
Capacity 20 cars

Echo Lake (El Dorado County)

Off Highway 50, north side, one mile west of Echo Summit- Echo Lake Road ½ mile to Sno-Park. Popular cross-country ski area. No snowmobiles. Poor snow play area.

Information: 530/644-6048
Capacity 40 cars

Echo Summit (El Dorado County)

Highway 50, on south side, at Echo Summit. Popular snow play area; extensive sledding hill. Very crowded weekends/holidays. Some cross-country skiing; no snowmobiles. Snacks, Sno-Park permits, winter recreation gear available on-site.

Information: 530/644-6048
Capacity 120 cars

Iron Mountain (El Dorado County)

Highway 88, 40 miles east of Jackson on Mormon-Emigrant Trail Road. Excellent groomed snowmobile trails; fair cross-country skiing. Good snow play; no sled slope.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 209/295-4251
Capacity 40 cars

Taylor Creek (El Dorado County)


West side of Highway 89 near Camp Richardson. Cross-country skiing to Fallen Leaf Lake. Limited snowmobile use. Snow play (small sledding hill).

Information: U.S. Forest Service , 530/573-2600
Capacity 40 cars

Balsam Meadows (Fresno County)

North side of Hwy. 168, 60 miles northeast of Fresno. Best snow play area on Hwy. 168; no sled slope. No snowmobiles. Ample parking.

Information: Pineridge Ranger District, 559/855-5360; Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Capacity 20 cars

Coyote (Fresno County)

West side of Highway 168, 68 miles northeast of Fresno. Good cross-country ski area; no snowmobiles. Sled slope.

Information: Pineridge Ranger District, 559/855-5360; Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Capacity 30 cars

Eastwood (Fresno County)

Highway 168, 75 miles northeast of Fresno, at Huntington Lake Road. Groomed snowmobile trails; cross-country skiing. Snow play; no sled slope.

Information: Pineridge Ranger District, 559/855-5360
Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Capacity 30 cars

Huntington Lake (Fresno County)

Huntington Lake Road, 3 miles past Eastwood Sno-Park. Groomed snowmobile trails; cross-country skiing. Snow play; no sled slope.

Information: Pineridge Ranger District, 559/855-5360
Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Capacity 50 cars

Tamarack (Fresno County)

East side of Highway 168, 68 miles northeast of Fresno. Groomed snowmobile trails; cross-country skiing. Snow play; no sled slope.

Information: Pineridge Ranger District 559/855-5360; Open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Capacity 30 cars

Rock Creek (Mono County)

Off Highway 395, 25 miles north of Bishop (seven miles up Rock Creek Lake Road from Tom's Place). Upper parking lot for day use only. Excellent cross-country skiing. No snowmobiles. Good snow play; no sled slope.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 760/873-2500
Capacity 30 cars

Donner Summit (Nevada County)

Highway I-80, Castle Peak exit, on frontage road south of freeway, just beyond Boreal Inn (Sno-Park permits available). Trails are on north side of freeway. Very popular cross-country ski area. Snow play at south parking lot. Some snowmobiling. Crowded on weekends. Avalanche and rock fall danger on steeper slopes.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 530/587-3558
Capacity 100 cars

Yuba Gap (Nevada County)

Highway I-80, Yuba Gap exit; south of freeway, at National American Snowflower Campground. Snow play area, sled slopes. No snowmobiles or motorized off-road vehicles. Hot food, Sno-Park permits and local information available at the Snowflower Country Store, 530/389-8241

No buses. No overnight parking
Capacity 200 cars

Blackwood Canyon (Placer County)

West side of Highway 89, three miles south of Tahoe City. Avoid steeper terrain on south side of canyon (avalanche danger). Cross-country skiing; snowmobiling. Poor snow play.

Information: U.S. Forest Service 530/573-2600
Capacity 15 cars

Yuba Pass (Sierra County)

South side of Highway 49 at Yuba Pass. Cross-country ski trails north of highway. Extensive groomed snowmobile trails. Good snow play; no sled slope. Ample parking.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 530/994-3401
Capacity 30 cars

Highway 108 (Tuolumne County)

Highway 108 at winter closure gate, six miles past Strawberry. Groomed snowmobile trails; limited snow play; cross-country skiing. Some overnight parking.

Information: U.S. Forest Service, 209/965-3434
Capacity 50 cars

California State Parks, visit:
http://cal-parks.ca.gov/