Wednesday is the first day of winter, which means it’s time to pull out the inner tubes and sleds and journey up the mountain to the Capulin Snow Play Area for hours of frigid fun.
According to the Cibola National Forest website, the snow play area is officially open to sledders and inner tube enthusiasts. On Tuesday, Dec. 13, the area was closed after a moderate snowstorm passed through the mountains that offered cross-country skiing opportunities for some. Although no new snow has accumulated on the mountain since then, as of Monday, Dec. 19, the snow play area was open for business.
Freezing temperatures at higher elevations have helped prevent the snow from melting, allowing the area to open to sledders and kids who want to slide down the slopes. Before heading up the Sandias, there are a few things to remember.
Road conditions can change at any time
Road construction continues on NM 14, with lane closures at mile marker 4 before the turnoff to Sandia Peak. Roads are salted and plowed during snowstorms and should be clear until another storm hits, but conditions can always change.
Be aware of road conditions prior to leaving and be prepared to go slow, especially around sharp turns and shaded areas where ice may form along Sandia Crest Road. Deer and other wildlife can also venture onto the road, so be cautious. Always be courteous of other drivers and yield to vehicles coming down the mountain, as they have the right of way.
Snow play area is not a free-for-all
Capulin Snow Play Site offers vaulted toilets, parking and a covered picnic area, but drivers must pay a $3 fee to park and share the amenities with others. The parking area can be slippery, and temperatures will be cold.
Waterproof gloves, snow pants, beanies and well-insulated jackets are recommended for all who wish to venture out onto the slopes. The higher elevation means the air is thinner and can make it difficult for some to hike up steep hills. Bring plenty of water and extra snacks — and an air compressor if bringing inner tubes.
A few rules at the snow play area
- Inner tubes and plastic discs and sleds only. No wooden or metal devices allowed.
- Two person maximum per tube/toy
- No trains
- No jumps — do not make or use jumps
- Look before you slide and ensure others are clear
- Be considerate of others
- No glass containers on the slopes
- No alcohol allowed in the area
- Keep pets on a leash and under control
The no jumping rule is not a joke. Even the smallest of humps can send kids flying into the air and end the day on a bad note real fast. It’s one thing to get a face full of snow, but a broken arm or leg is a whole other story.
For emergencies, call 911. For all other information on the snow play area, call the Sandia Ranger District Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at 505-281-3304. More information about the play area can also be found on the U.S. Forest Service website.