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Capulin Snow Play Area open for daylight hours

A family looks for a place to sled near the 10k Trailhead on state Highway 536 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Cibola National Forest's Capulin Snow Play Area just down the highway was closed because it lacked the minimum 12-inch snowbase to open, said district ranger Crystal Powell. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

A family looks for a place to sled near the 10k Trailhead on state Highway 536 on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The Cibola National Forest’s Capulin Snow Play Area just down the highway was closed because it lacked the minimum 12-inch snowbase to open, said district ranger Crystal Powell. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The popular Capulin Snow Play Area in the Sandia Mountains received sufficient snow to open last weekend and will remain open during daylight hours as snow conditions allow, according to Cibola National Forest officials.

Finding out whether it’s open, however, takes a little sleuthing.

Crystal Powell, district ranger with the Cibola National Forest’s Sandia Ranger District, said the best way to determine whether the snow play area is open is to check the district’s Facebook page – www.facebook.com/cibolanf – and check the posts.

You can also call the district office (505-281-3304) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays, but glitches with a new phone system prevents staffers, at least temporarily, from updating the phone messages on weekends. And the phone line isn’t staffed on weekends, Powell said.

You can also check the district’s website – www.fs.usda.gov/cibola – but it’s not updated over the weekend. And it takes a few “clicks” to get where you’re going, to wit: Click on “Sandia Ranger District”; click on “Recreation”; click on “Winter Sports”; click on “Sledding/Tubing”; click on “Capulin Snow Play Site.” The direct link is: www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/cibola/recreation/wintersports/recarea/?recid=64198&actid=88.

And before you dig through the attic looking for your old Flexible Flyer sled, they’re not allowed at Capulin: Rules posted at the site prohibit riding “anything with metal or wood” to swoosh down the hillsides.

Approved sledding devices include inner tubes, plastic discs and plastic sleds.

Other rules: no trains; only two people per tube, disc or plastic sled; no making or using jumps; no glass or alcohol; and keep pets on a leash and under control.

The sledding area, located on state Highway 536 (directions at the bottom of story), is unsupervised, according to Forest Service officials, and sledders and tubers participate at their own risk. It’s the only designated sledding and tubing area in the Sandias, so it’s illegal to use the area known as “the pit” or slopes alongside parking areas as sledding spots.

The snow play area has about 120 parking spaces, three sledding hills and two restrooms.

It costs $3 per vehicle to enter the Capulin area, and people can pay – cash or check only – at the pay station. Vans and buses carrying 15 or more passengers pay only $10 per day.

An annual Sandia Ranger District Amenity Pass, priced at $30, will also get you into the Capulin Snow Play Area. Passes are available during regular business hours at: Sandia Ranger Station, 11776 N.M. Highway 337 in Tijeras; Cibola supervisor’s office, 2113 Osuna Road NE in Albuquerque, and REI, 1550 Mercantile Ave. NE.

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