Sno-Park Permits are on Sale!
2021 / 2022 season fee increase information:
This is a repost of what I posted end of the season in March 2021
The Sno-Park program reached out to the I-90 clubs and users over a year ago (way before COVID) to see what we all thought, and most users agreed it was time for an increase. Keeping up with use and resulting needs was getting harder and to complicate matters, grant funding from the RCO is getting significantly more competitive and is not a good way to run a program when those funds are / were relied on and yet grants need to be resubmitted every 2 years with no guarantee of winning. The Winter Recreation Advisory Committee subcommittee did a lot of research to determine how to approach this potential fee increase and started out with “where do we need to be” and “how do we get there”?
Since I attend way too many meetings, I’ve learned that nordic skiing has expensive infrastructure – i.e. equipment and operators. The non-motorized program owns a lot of equipment which need rotating out and replacement. Cabin Creek and Erling Stordahl contract with a private contractor, so the program does not provide equipment. Let’s just leave it at it gets complicated as to who does what and where and is funded by whom.
So, back to the increases. The committee decided that those areas using the most resources will see the highest fee increase – the special grooming sticker areas. That’s us! Next season to ski out of Hyak, Crystal Springs, Cabin Creek and Lake Easton State Park (I-90 corridor) will cost $120 per season. To put this in perspective, this is per vehicle and the last fee increase was in 2009!
Many questions come in about why the permits are not transferable between vehicles within a family? Well, what the Program discovered was immense amount of sharing happened between friends and the revenue was low for the demand. This blog has commented on expense of grooming and snow removal for a long time. No money in = no money out = No services. Simple. Remember – NOT TAX DOLLAR FUNDED.
Now you ask, what about all the funds from the HUMONGOUS crowds we had this season? Well, the extra income is most certainly not quite what anyone expected, and the final account balance isn’t available until July 1st when the fiscal year ends. There is no borrowing against funds you think will be there. There should be a sizable budget for next season. (Update 11/3/2021 - next blog will recap the summer funding meeting).
The summer funding meeting will be a lengthy one with many big one-time project requests coming in. Typically, these are for huts, trail repairs, bridges, gates, plenty of equipment replacements and storage options, more sani-can requests, staffing (think Snoqualmie Pass USFS Visitor Center, REI Outdoor Information Center and agency Rangers) and even signs. Grooming increases are further down the list as the Program and Advisory Committee try to keep the program on an even keel instead of increasing services only then find themselves having to cut back the following season due to lack of permit sales. Repeat. Good years put more money into equipment reserve, low permit sales less money into equipment repairs. That way expected services remain fairly consistent.
Once again, our revenue is dependent on the sale of these non-motorized permits. Program is run under the State Parks umbrella but is a user fee-based program. The Winter Recreation Advisory Committee approves the budget.
Some of us were hoping to use this funding cycle to put in a funding request to hire out consultants to prepare the environmental documents for trail work in Erling Stordahl and Cabin Creek so we can determine what we can (or can’t) do, but USFS still does not have the staff to even review the documents for approval even if the studies were paid for by winter recreation funding. This has been an issue forever. It’s completely absurd. The funding fix needs to come from Congress.
Nothing is free.