Winter isn't a time to stay indoors and count down to spring.
Near and (not so) far, there is a wonderland of sports and retreats for all ages to maximize winter. But before reaching for ice skates, sleds or snow sport gear, make it safe, local officials said.
Mount Charleston is heavily visited during winter for Las Vegans seeking snow play.
The U.S. Forest Service and the Nevada Department of Transportation have rules and restrictions for visitors looking for a wintery escape, effective through March.
Before heading to the mountain, visitors can check road conditions at safetravelusa.com/nv or by calling the U.S. Forest Service at 515-5400.
Chains and/or four-wheel drive vehicles often are required for winter travel on Mount Charleston.
Motorists who stop in travel lanes to put on snow chains will be cited, according to U.S. Forest Service rangers.
Visitors are also encouraged to bring extra food, water, clothing, a shovel, blankets and other items in case emergency vehicles can't reach them or help them for several hours, district ranger Gar Abbas said.
"Go prepared -- take layers so you can peel off layers as needed," he said.
Cell phone reception is unavailable in most areas on state routes 156, 157 and 158. Tell relatives and friends where and when you're going.
Once at their destination, motorists will not be allowed to park or walk on the actual roadways, including state Route 157 from state Route 158 to the Mount Charleston Lodge and on state Route 156 from the Meadows to the ski resort and by the fire station in Lee Canyon.
No-parking signs are in place throughout Kyle and Lee canyons. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and the Nevada Highway Patrol will enforce parking restrictions.
Visitors should refrain from playing or parking on private property or residential areas or areas marked "Closed." Trespassing fines begin at $150.
Parking is available at private businesses, U.S. Forest Service parking lots/land and east of state Route 158, but drivers must position wheels to the right of the white lines to prevent damage to vehicles and allow medical, police, fire personnel to respond to emergencies.
Vehicles parked over white lines, in no-parking zones or impeding traffic will be ticketed and towed. Fines begin around $190.
In the event of an accident or losing traction, Abbas advised people to stick with the vehicle and not attempt to look for help in unknown territory.
"Once you get lost off the road, the chances of being found are low," he said.
Abbas also suggested that snowshoers hike in pairs and all visitors let a loved one know where they plan to be and "have a plan if things go wrong ."
Abbas said many flock to the mountain to sled, but treacherous inclines make sledding safely important.
"We have steep inclines not appropriate for sledding," he said. "We advise using more gentle areas that won't send them skidding into a dangerous situation."
Thus, sledding is permitted only at the Foxtail Picnic Area and in Lee Meadows.
Sledding in hazardous areas increases the chances of serious injury or death.
Resort to safety
Skiing and snowboarding are popular winter sports, but they aren't without inherent risk.
From beginner to seasoned skier and rider, injuries happen.
The overall rate of reported skiing injuries has declined by 50 percent since the early 1970s, according to the National Ski Areas Association. The association found serious injuries, such as paralysis, head and other serious injuries, occur at the rate of about 43 per year.
At the Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort, 6725 Lee Canyon Road on Mount Charleston, several measures are in place to keep visitors safe, resort president and general manager Kevin Stickelman said.
Safety starts long before ski or snowboard meet snow, he said.
The resort lists weather and snow conditions on its website, skilasvegas.com, for visitors to check and prepare with appropriate winter gear and safety equipment.
Although helmets aren't required, Stickelman strongly suggests them, he said.
The resort and Centennial Hills Hospital Medical Center, 6900 N. Durango Drive, have teamed up to bring back Lids on Kids, a national ski and snowboard safety education program that gives away about 300 free helmets to local kids. The helmets are set to be distributed from 9:30-11 a.m. each Saturday in January.
The child and parent or guardian receive a tutorial on how to make the helmet fit and what to do if a crash occurs, Stickelman said.
"If you are in a fall and you dent the helmet, you must replace it," he said.
Fit is also paramount, he said.
"You can't just buy a helmet and let a child grow into it," he said.
Aside from how to be prepared on the equipment side, each visitor receives a handout called the Skiers Responsibility Code.
The seven-point statement outlines expectations for sharing the hills and resort. It is also displayed at various places at the resort, Stickelman said.
Once on the hill, help is never far, he added. A volunteer and paid ski patrol are at the ready and "mountain hosts" ski among guests to watch for issues. Stickelman said the patrollers wear distinctive red or blue jackets.
"They're our first line of defense to help you," he said.
Safety comes first, Stickelman said, but staff members want guests to enjoy their time at the resort.
"It gets you exercising and recreating and promoting a healthy lifestyle," he said. "It's a unique thing to have here in the desert."
Caution on ice
For those who seek a closer winter getaway, the Fiesta Rancho, 2400 N. Rancho Drive, is home to a 17,000-square-foot National Hockey League-sized arena that residents can use for ice skating.
Safety tips are posted around the rink, but visitors skate at their own risk, ice arena manager Rob Pallin said.
Pallin suggested that new skaters steady themselves on skate rails or the walls of the rink before heading toward the middle with the more advanced sect.
"Skating looks difficult, but people catch on real quick," he said.
The rink is kept at around 55 degrees, and long pants and a light sweatshirt can help stave off the cold, Pallin said.
Jeans can retain moisture and prolong a chill, he advised.
Head protection is also important, he said.
"If you're a beginner skater, helmets are highly recommended," Pallin said.
Contact Centennial and North Las Vegas View reporter Maggie Lillis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 477-3839.