Snowbound in Northern California
If you enjoy running your rig through the best and worst that Mother Nature has to offer during the winter, then the Winter Fun Festival is the event for you.
The California Four-Wheel Drive Association has held the Winter Fun Festival annually for the last 18 years in Northern California. For the last few years, the main staging area for camping, vehicle safety checks, registration, and great food has been the Grass Valley Fairgrounds. As for the trails, they change according to the type of weather the northern end of California is experiencing. The terrain and level of difficulty you find can change daily.
No matter what the conditions are, however, the Winter Fun Festival is bound to test your driving abilities and provide entertainment for your whole family from beginning to end. Snow, mud, rock - this event has it all.
This year's Fun Festival ran from January 14-16. When the trail crew checked the trails the week before the main event, there was very little snow to be found. On the 15th, though, a snowstorm blew in at around 6,000 feet and changed everything. By Saturday morning, as vehicles began hitting the trails, conditions were changing by the hour. Fresh powder is always fun and made for some fantastic 'wheeling.
The three runs below the snow line were hit with rain, which added mud to go along with the snow on the trail and created a serious challenge for a couple of the rigs. With trail conditions under the control of Mother Nature, great 'wheeling skills were required. Thanks to the excellent trail crews at this event, everyone kept moving in a timely manner. Without a doubt, everyone had a blast.
The first event, the night snow run, was set to leave the staging area on Friday at 9 p.m. After all the preparations were made, the group met at the trailhead and 'wheeled through the night in near-freezing conditions. Even under the best circumstances, 'wheeling at night is challenging. But doing it in fresh snow, with your headlights creating reflections and deep shadows, is a totally different experience. If you're into adventure, then this is a trail run you will remember.
The SUV historical trail ride ran through light to moderately deep snow and was open to all 4WD vehicles. No matter what your 'wheeling experience entails or the capabilities of your rig, this is a great run to take for beginners, as well as hard-core enthusiasts. It is not hard on the vehicle or the driver, but it is heavy on the area's gold mining history and how life has changed since the end of the gold rush.
The long-wheelbase trail ride ran through moderately deep snow, and high-clearance 4WDs with oversized tires were recommended. With the trail conditions changing overnight, the wide mix of vehicles made the run without problems. They started out at just a little after 9 a.m., heading into the high country. Just a couple hundred yards down the trail, they hit a solid path covered in 1-2 feet of snow, with the trail climbing higher into the Sierras.
About a third of the way through the run, they ran out of snow and into water and mud. Now it was time for the real hair-raising fun to begin. The mud was slick in some places, but it proved to be easy to 'wheel through for most of the rigs. The rest of the trail was a cross between patches of mud and snow, with the snow reaching depths of 2 feet in places. By the time they arrived at the end of the trail, everyone had enjoyed themselves, whether they were looking to play in the snow, water, or mud.