People are flocking to the mountains this winter, filling up sno-parks, ski areas, and other recreation sites on national forest lands.

While winter is a great time to explore public lands, forest officials caution that there are additional precautions and steps to take before heading out. Recreation staff and emergency responders ask everyone to follow these tips and stay safe this winter:

• Always check weather and road conditions before leaving home.

• Prepare your vehicle for conditions at high elevations, carry tire chains and keep a winter weather kit in your vehicle.

The Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue team rescued a man and his 13-year-old daughter who got stuck in snow in a four-wheel-drive truck on a forest road north of Paulina Lake. DCSO reminds the public to use caution when traveling on forest roads this time of year due to snowpack. Road conditions vary significantly and roads can quickly become impassable. If you are traversing in these conditions be sure to bring appropriate vehicles, equipment, lighting, clothing, food, water, navigation and communication devices.

Traffic may be heavy around popular winter recreation sites so have a back-up plan if the site you wanted to visit is full. Consider weekday visits or local transit options rather than driving to areas and always carpool if possible.

If a parking lot is full, do not park along the highway, in no-parking zones, or block other vehicles. Ambulances and other emergency vehicles need unhindered access to operate safely and save lives. Highway snowplows need extra-wide road space as they have “wing” plows that stick out more than eight feet from the right front edge of the truck to remove snow. Vehicles blocking traffic or parked illegally are subject to ticketing and towing.

This winter ski areas are operating with reduced capacity, modified hours, or special COVID-19 protocols. Some ski area parking lots are filling up before 8 a.m. Check the ski area’s website in advance to know about any restrictions and take advantage of advance reservations, if available. Do not endanger others or yourself by parking or idling on highways waiting for parking spaces to open.

For more information about winter recreation visit:

• Deschutes National Forest, www.fs.usda.gov/detail/deschutes/home/?cid=FSEPRD863232

• ODOT Winter Driving Guide: www.oregon.gov/odot/documents/winter-driving-guide.pdf