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SNO place like a mountain park

The kids are out of school, there's no point trying to get any work done at the office (everyone you need to reach is on vacation, anyway), and the natives in your home are getting restless after a lot of feasting and home-bodying.

What to do?

Why, the answer is crystal-snowflake clear: Haul the fam up the hill for a romp in one of the dozens of SNO parks that dot the Sierra.

Be advised: They're likely to be crowded on this holiday weekend, and space is on a first-come, first-served basis. For information on SNO-park types or locations, or where you can pre-purchase a permit, call the California Department of Parks and Recreation SNO-Park hotline at (916) 324-1222.

A few of the more popular destinations:

Donner Lake (Nevada County): Interstate 80, Donner Lake exit, on Donner Pass Road at Donner Memorial State Park, next to Emigrant Trail Museum. No snowmobiles. Snow play; no sled slope; skiing OK. (530) 582-7892. Capacity of 35 cars.

Donner Summit (Nevada County): Interstate 80, Castle Peak exit, on frontage road south of freeway, just beyond Boreal Inn (Sno-Park permits available). Trails are on north side of freeway. Very popular cross-country ski area. Snow play at south parking lot. Some snowmobiling. Crowded on weekends. (530) 587-3558. Capacity of 100 cars.

Echo Summit (El Dorado County): Highway 50, on south side, at Echo Summit. Popular snow play area; extensive sledding hill. Very crowded weekends and holidays. (530) 644-6048. Capacity of 120 cars.

Iron Mountain (El Dorado County): Highway 88, 40 miles east of Jackson on Mormon-Emigrant Trail Road. Excellent groomed snowmobile trails; fair cross-country skiing. Good snow play; no sled slope. (209) 295-4251. Capacity of 40 cars.

Taylor Creek (El Dorado County): West side of Highway 89 near Camp Richardson. Cross-country skiing to Fallen Leaf Lake. Limited snowmobile use. Snow play (small sledding hill). (530) 573-2600. Capacity of 40 cars.

Yuba Gap (Nevada County): Interstate 80, Yuba Gap exit; south of freeway, at National American Snowflower Campground. Snow play area, sled slopes. No snowmobiles or motorized off-road vehicles. (530) 389-8241. Capacity of 200 cars.

Yuba Pass (Sierra County): South side of Highway 49 at Yuba Pass. Cross-country ski trails north of highway. Extensive groomed snowmobile trails. Good snow play; no sled slope. Ample parking. (530) 994-3401. Capacity of 30 cars.

Source: California Department of Parks and Recreation