It only took a few snow flurries downtown Saturday to signal the start of winter play season. Folks from Sisters Country took off in droves, destination Ray Benson, Santiam, and Potato Hill Sno-Parks, anything above 6,000 feet that got a nice dumping Friday night, and throughout Saturday morning.

Oregon Department of Transportation had already made a couple of sweeps as the weather changed seemingly by the minute, from hard-driving snow with 20 mph winds behind it, to pop-up sun and a wintry smorgasbord in between. As the 34 degrees at Suttle Lake quickly became 30 degrees a mile farther west, cars were found in the ditches and trucks crawling. Oregon State Police and Lynn County sheriff’s deputies rushed to the summit to curb driver enthusiasm and render aid.

In the not-yet-opened Hoodoo Ski Area parking lot, more than 75 cars were congregated. Apparently this is the go-to meeting place for families and friends making connections. From there they caravan down Big Lake Road, pulling off at various openings or Nordic ski trails not officially open. The more adventurous car pooled to the Pacific Crest Trailhead to see how close to Three Fingered Jack they could get.

The scene resembled a winter sports shop. From the doors and rear hatches, out came skis, snowshoes, sleds, tubes, saucers, and passels of kids and dogs. The mere 10 inches of white stuff, a bit heavy, was all fun seekers needed. Moms and dads were ready. Mittens, goggles, hats — a veritable how-to-do-winter-right guide book on display.

The frolicking was highly entertaining. There were the obligatory snowball fights and hastily constructed snow persons, as well as the occasional tube and sled crashes, which often appeared intentional, to amp the fun. Dads and older siblings strained to get the kiddos up hills, some steep — all randomly made — for the downhill delights.

Cross-country skiers angled for first tracks. Snowshoers just latched up and took off, nowhere in particular, only wanting to savor the experience. This was the moment winter enthusiasts have been imagining for the past two weeks as they saw snow building on the Ladies and Jeff. They got a further positive sign driving past Black Butte, now liberally blanketed.

Will it last?

“Who knows, who cares,” said members of the Parker family with beaming smiles.

Joined by their friends, the Summers, all of Sisters, the two families and their combined six kids and three dogs could make their own team of anything they wanted on Saturday. And have a blast doing it. Hello winter.

“The thing about snow is that the kids tend to stick together, regardless of age or school,” said Lauren Bailey. “A 7-year-old and a teen are not so far apart in the snow,” she added. Her husband, Greg, agreed. “Snow is the one thing that we do as a family where we all hang without the older kids pairing with other kids their ages. Or taking off, leaving the younger ones behind.”

The five-day forecast for Santiam Pass promises more snow. Visibility will be reduced yet that is not expected to lessen the fun. Like Mt. Bachelor, Ski Hoodoo is hoping for a Thanksgiving Weekend opening. The operative word is hope, and no formal date has been announced.