Know the rules and be prepared before you go to avoid snowmobiling hassles
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Backcountry rangers with the U.S. Forest Service have cracked down on illegal snowmobile activities in the Vail Pass area, issuing 10 tickets in the past couple of weeks, according to a press release from the White River National Forest.
Snowmobiles are prohibited in areas where there is less than six inches of packed snow cover to prevent damage to trails and vegetation. Other concerns include impacts to wildlife habitat and conflicts with non-motorized users. Individual users are responsible for knowing where they can and cannot go in the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area. The Forest Service wants to remind snowmobilers that, with warmer weather, conditions in the Vail Pass area change constantly and trail signing does not always reflect current conditions.
Every year there are many cases of people getting into tough situations on a snowmobile because they are not prepared for the unexpected situations in which they might find themselves. A great recreation experience is one for which you are well prepared and from which you return safely.
Here are some guidelines from the Forest Service on safe spring snowmobile travel:
Respect the land – Know where you are going and plan ahead. Where are the Wilderness Areas? Are there travel restrictions in the area you are planning to use? Know the area you are traveling in and stay on legal routes. What does the weather and daily avalanche report say? Always check these reports for your area before you take off. If a winter storm kicks up you could easily become lost in a blizzard. Getting lost in whiteouts can happen to anyone.
Respect others – Have a travel plan. Leave a travel plan of your destination and route with your estimated time of return. If you’re hurt, lost or your snowmobile breaks down, searchers will know where to look for you. Always check in when you return so people don’t start looking for you unnecessarily.
Respect yourself – Be prepared and bring a first aid and survival pack. Always carry a first-aid kit, flashlight (with extra batteries), knife, compass, map, waterproof matches (3 or 4 highway flares are a good idea also), an avalanche beacon and portable shovel with a wide scoop. If lost or stuck, this gear in a waterproof stuff sack or bag, along with extra food and water, could mean the difference in your survival.
A great way to start planning for a safe and successful snowmobile trip is to consult with the local office of the US Forest Service. Information about Forest Service offices and National Forest opportunities is online here. The website of the Colorado Snowmobile Association is here, with updated trail conditions as well as information on safe and responsible snowmobile recreation. The Colorado Avalanche Information Center is a good place to get the latest information on avalanche danger and avalanche safety.