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Mount Lassen, apres ski lift.

Even though downhill skiing is no more, it's still a great place for winter play LAST AUGUST, WHEN the small downhill ski facility at Lassen Volcanic National Park was removed, some local skiers and businesspeople were dismayed. Downhill skiing, after all, had been a part of winter in the south Lassen area since 1939. It was a blow the struggling economy didn't need. But others were pleased to see the lifts go and to have the park return to a more pristine condition. SNOWSHOEING

Besides, there's still plenty to do at Lassen in the winter. One of the most unusual outings is a naturalist-led snowshoe hike to the thermal pools at Sulphur Works. "It's a very dramatic sight in the cold air," says Scott Isaacson, assistant chief naturalist at the park. "The fumaroles look like they are more active, because there is more steam." Another hike takes snowshoers to an area of old-growth red fir, where it is not uncommon to find hare or even bobcat tracks.

Both hikes are offered on Saturday afternoons through March. They begin at the Lassen Chalet parking lot at the park's south entrance, which is on State Highway 89 about 52 miles east of Red Bluff and a few miles north of State 36. The price? A mere dollar, which--park officials almost apologetically explain--goes toward the purchase and repair of the snowshoes. Although the hikes are open to anyone 8 or older, prospective snowshoers should be prepared to trek 2 hours at a base elevation of 7,000 feet.

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING

During the winter, snow closes State 89--which runs through the park--just beyond the chalet parking lot. But weather permitting, cross-country skiers (and snowshoers) may use the highway as a trail. Other free park trails--marked and unmarked--are detailed in a guide available at Lassen Park headquarters in Mineral, which is on State 36 just west of State 89. For park information, call (916) 595-4444.

Free trails abound, too, in Lassen National Forest. McGowan Lake trail, off State 89 about 2 miles north of the State 36 turnoff into the park, is one such marked trail; it's open to cross-country skiers only (other trails are also open to snowmobilers). A free brochure outlining all ski trails in Lassen National Forest is available at the Almanor district office in Chester, which is on State 36 about 25 miles south of the park. For more information, call 258-2141. WHERE TO STAY

South of the park and east of Mineral on State 36, skiers will find packed trails at Child's Meadows Resort, a privately owned facility, which has recently reopened. Rooms run from $37 to $47.50, cabins are $85, and the access fee for the meadow trails (for visitors and resort guests alike) is $2. For information, call 595-3383.

Other lodging options include Lassen Mineral Lodge (595-4422; $40 to $55) and Black Forest Lodge, which is just west of Chester on State 36 (258-2941; $40 to $50, weekends only). One of the area's most distinctive inns, the historic Bidwell House, is in Chester proper (258-3338; $60 to $98).

For road conditions, call Caltrans at (800) 427-7623.
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Title Annotation:Lassen Volcanic National Park
Author:Felling, Nancy
Publication:Sunset
Date:Feb 1, 1994
Words:519
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