If you enjoy running your rig through the best or worst that Mother Nature has to offer in the winter, then the Winter Fun Festival is the event for you!
The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs has held the Winter Fun Festival for the last 23 years in Northern California. For the last few years, the main staging area for camping/RV parking, vehicle safety checks, registration, and food has been the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley, California. As for the winter trails for this annual event, it all depends on the type of weather that the north end of California is getting during and before the event, which will change the terrain that you will be traveling through quickly! However, no matter what the conditions are like, the Winter Fun Festival is bound to test your driving ability and provide entertainment for your whole family from beginning to end. From snow to mud to rock, this event has it all with over ten trail runs at different skill levels.
This year's event was planned for January 14-16, and when the trail crew checked the runs the week prior to the main event,there was plenty of deep, white powder -- it made for a day of fantastic winter wheeling.
All ten runs had a great snow pack this year. Several of the higher-elevation runs had to be relocated to new trails at lower elevations due to the high snow pack; however, thanks to the excellent trail crews at this event everyone kept moving in a timely manner. Without a doubt, everyone had a blast and a great winter wheeling experience.
The first trail run was set to leave the staging area on Friday night at 9 p.m. It was the night snow run. After preparing for the run, the group went to the trailhead and wheeled through the night in the snow. Wheeling at night is one thing, but trying this with white snow on the trail reflecting your light and creating deep shadows is a totally different experience for those who have never attempted it! If you are into adventure, then this is a trail run you will remember.
The ten main trail runs were staged on Saturday morning. These trails had various names but were basically the SUV/Historical trail, medium-level snow trails, and the extreme snow trails.
The SUV/Historical trail had light to moderately deep snow and was open to all 4WD vehicles. No matter what your wheeling experience is or the capabilities of your rig, this is a great run to take for beginners as well as lifelong, hardcore enthusiasts. It's not hard on the vehicle or driver but is heavy on the history of the gold mining of the area and how life has changed in this area due to the end of the Gold Rush. This trail is sure to keep the whole family entertained throughout the event and is a fantastic entry-level trail for anyone with a 4x4 wanting to see history and teach their family about it.
The medium-level snow trails were through moderately deep snow with high-clearance 4WD vehicles with oversized tires recommend-ed. With the trail conditions as they were this year, most vehicles of all sizes made the run with no problem. The predominant rigs on these trails were full-size Jeeps along with a few Chevys, some Jeep CJs, and a few Fords. They started out at just a little after nine in the morning, heading on into the high country and the snow and mud. Within a couple of hundred yards on the trail, they hit a solid trail covered in 2 to 3 feet of snow, with the trail climbing higher into the Sierras. At the halfway point the drivers and passengers broke for lunch. After lunch it was time to saddle up again and finish the trail run. The rest of the trail was snow, snow, and more snow. The snow depth reached 3 to 4 feet at times but was still wheelable.
One of the top runs at this event was the Klondike trail. It was through unlimited snow depths for high clearance 4WDs with winching expected and special equipment required. This run started out on a trail a few miles north of the medium-level snow trails and proceeded from there, straight up and into the deep snow. The snow depth ranged from 6 feet to past 8 feet on this run, with the winches seeing quite a bit of use from the trail midpoint to the end. We decided that we would run this trail this year. After hitting the trail the fun began. The trailhead was covered in about 4 inches of snow, and as we traveled up the run it got deeper from there. After traveling in the snow for about two hours, we reached the temporary base camp for the run. This is the camp where the crew set up staging for the snow-addicted wheelers. From here, everyone went out in the snow and made their own trails as they pleased.
The plan was to blaze new trails in the powder snow until 4 p.m. and then group up for the run back to the main camp. The powder was deep in places, and we blazed a few trails. The best part was the hillclimb in the snow located at the staging area. Everyone had to try to follow the trail up to the top that Scott from Extreme Gear Off-Road had blazed with his custom-built Jeep Scrambler. After playing on the hill and in the area for a few hours, we all headed back to the base camp for the head count and then traveled back to the main camp at the Nevada County Fairgrounds for dinner and nighttime festivities. When the wheelers made it back to the main camp area, you could tell that they had had a blast playing in the snow all day. If you enjoy heavy snow runs and have your rig built for the rough country like these rigs, then this is the run for you to hit next year.
Along with all of this at the event, there were also family games going on for everyone's entertainment. The evening events at the camp were held just after the fantastic dinner. These events included music, dancing, and a raffle on Saturday night. With the support of national companies like Warn Industries and ARB and local companies like J&W Auto Wreckers, there were over 200 items to give away for the raffle with prizes ranging from Hi-Lift jacks to full winch systems. This drew the crowd to the edge of their seats, looking at their tickets, each time a number was called.
Of all the winter events that we've attended, this is one of the best family events ever. With all the events going on during the weekend there were things for the whole family to do.
For more information on next year's event contact The California Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs at (916) 381-8300 or log on to its website, www.cal4wheel.com. We hope to see you at the Winter Fun Festival next year!