Snow-capped Charleston Peak and neighboring crags west of Las Vegas remind us that winter is here, despite balmy days on the desert floor. Every storm front moving through the area promises snow, luring crowds to the mountains.
Traffic into the forested areas on Kyle Canyon Road (state Route 157) and Lee Canyon Road (state Route 156) will be heavy after every storm. Visitors find restaurants and lodgings at a hotel and lodge in Kyle Canyon, and Las Vegas Ski &Snowboard Resort and many open areas for snow play draw crowds to Lee Canyon. These destinations command splendid views of snowy scenery.
A little planning will help mountain visitors have a safe, enjoyable snow outing. Check weather and road conditions before heading out of town. The Nevada Department of Transportation provides up-to-date information on its website, nvroads.com. Chains or snow tires might be required during or after a storm. Consider delaying your visit until conditions improve and road crews have had time to clear the roads.
Plan for everybody to get cold, wet and hungry. Take a change of clothes and footwear for everyone in your party and have enough plastic bags to hold wet gear. Bring some blankets. Pack hot beverages, nutritious snacks and hearty soups or chili.
Some recreation facilities in the Spring Mountains are currently affected by rehabilitation and construction projects planned for the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. Many familiar picnic and camping areas are involved, and some will be closed until mid-2014 or well into 2015. Projects include roadside improvements aimed at reducing traffic congestion and improving pullouts and parking safety. Look for news of these projects on the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area website (www.fs.usda.gov/goto/htnf/smnra) or the Go Mount Charleston website (gomtcharleston.com).
One project will affect winter visitors this year. For decades, the Foxtail Snow Play area off Lee Canyon Road has provided an obstacle-free site for snow activities such as sledding, tobogganing and sliding. The area, also used as a group picnic spot in the summer, will be closed through mid-2015. Plans may permanently change its wintertime use.
To avoid injuries during snow play, choose an area with few visible hazards. Snow toys are safer when they have some means of guiding downhill runs, such as sleds or toboggans. Since many snow play accidents involve head injuries, take the precaution of providing a helmet for each rider.
Many desert dwellers do not know how to drive in snow, resulting in a rash of accidents on mountain roads each winter. Slow way down and remember your training for driving on slick roads. Expect to get a ticket if you park with your car blocking a travel lane, and watch for heedless pedestrians.
Snowy side roads invite exploration by snowmobile, on cross-country ski or on snowshoes. Research suggested winter routes, often foot trails or old roads. When following backcountry routes where there may be avalanche danger, carry cellphones and signaling devices.
Go Mount Charleston organizes guided snowshoe treks on winter weekends when there is enough snow. The treks cost $10 per person and are limited to 30 people. Snowhoes are available. Pick a date and register online.
Las Vegas Ski &Snowboard Resort is the only developed ski facility in Southern Nevada. It lies at the end of Lee Canyon Road, a drive of about 45 minutes from Las Vegas.
Facilities include a restaurant and a bar and grill as well as rental ski and snowboard equipment. Find out about bus transportation from town and buying lift tickets and passes at skilasvegas.com.
Margo Bartlett Pesek’s Trip of the Week column appears on Sundays.