By Sharon Wootton Herald Columnist
I listened as Wayne McLaughlin walked me through the potential combinations of required permits for Sno-Parks on state land: Discover Pass (daily or annual), Sno-Park pass (daily or seasonal), groomed-trail sticker, or snowmobile registration (includes a seasonal Sno-Park pass).
The program specialist for the state parks’ winter recreation programs did a fine job, but I still had to reach for the calculator.
• Sno-Park permits are daily ($20) or seasonal ($40).
• Some of the Sno-Parks have enhanced grooming to prepare for cross-country skiing. If you use those parks, there’s an additional $40 groomed-trail sticker in addition to the seasonal permit. But if you purchase the daily permit, the special groomed trail sticker is not required.
• Snowmobilers receive a free Sno-Park permit when they register their sleds, of which there are about 28,400. The state receives $30 per sled, but the sales agent can add a few dollars (think Ticketmaster fees).
• If you want to ski at a Sno-Park used by snowmobilers, you need a daily or seasonal Sno-Park permit only, no special groomed trail sticker required.
• Now, if the Sno-Park is on state land, such as parks or fish and wildlife land, then a Discover Pass ($10 daily; $30 annual) also is needed but only if you have a daily Sno-Park permit.
• If you have a seasonal Sno-Park permit, then you don’t need a Discover Pass for using a Sno-Park on state land, except for a few parking areas managed by the Department of Natural Resources, where the Discover Pass is required
More than 90 percent of the Sno-Parks are on Forest Service land, so there is no Discover Pass requirement, McLaughlin said.
So … if you go to a Sno-Park on state park land, you need a Discover Pass but only with a daily SnoPark pass. If you have a seasonal Sno-Park permit, you don’t need the Discover pass.
Eighty of the 120 Sno-Parks are for snowmobile use, although nonsledders can use the trails; 40 Sno-Parks are for nonmotorized use.
Unlike the Discover Pass, which you can use on two vehicles, Sno-Park permits are one per vehicle,
For more information, go to www.parks.wa.gov.
If a Sno-Park is on Forest Service land, only a Sno-Park permit is needed. Any area listed as a Sno-Park on Forest Service land or for using the Mount Baker National Recreational Area requires a permit. A Northwest Forest Pass is not required.
For winter recreational options, go to www.fs.usda.gov/mbs.
A Sno-Park permit is not just about parking; it’s about the use of the area. Even if you are parked away from the lot, you still must have a permit. If you don’t have one, you risk a citation.
McLaughlin suggests Sno-Park users keep the cost in perspective.
“If you think of it in terms of the value of recreational experiences, that’s four months cramming as many people as you want into a vehicle for $40. Just think of the cost of two people going to the movies.
“Some private ski areas charge per person per day $18 to $20 for using their cross-county skiing trails. Downhill lift tickets can cost $40 to $50 for a lift ticket per day.
“Remember, the winter program is completely self-sustaining,” McLaughlin said.
If you use state parks, a $30 annual Discover pass and a $40 annual Sno-Park permit and a $40 enhanced trail-grooming sticker comes to $110 for access to all state parks and all Sno-Parks.
Now, for those dogsledders… .
Columnist Sharon Wootton can be reached at 360-468-3964 or www.songandword.com.