Snow Cat may be running soon

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— After being driven into Steamboat Lake earlier this month, the new snow machine for grooming ski and snowmobile trails in North Routt County should be up and running again in February.

The accident occurred Jan. 8, just a month after the Steamboat Lake Snow Club, a conglomerate of motorized and nonmotorized users, raised $184,000 to purchase the machine.

Ken Brink, park manager at Steamboat Lake State Park, reported the operator was not familiar with the terrain. "He knew the area, he just got disoriented," Brink said Tuesday.

The operator had received training about the ski trails, but became disoriented in harsh conditions that included heavy blowing snow.

Brink said he does not believe the lake suffered any environmental damage because of the accident. There was a half-tank of gas when the machine went into the lake and there was a half-tank when it was pulled out, he said. Two other fuel tanks strapped to the back of the machine when it went in were removed when officials got to the scene, and no leakage from those was apparent.

Brink said the oil remained in the vehicle while it was submerged.

"I guarantee none of that went in," Brink said. "We drink that water."

While the engine was damaged in the accident, the damage to the machine was much less than what members of the club initially expected, said Terry Nelson, the president of the Steamboat Lake Snow Club.

"It turned out there really wasn't that much wrong with the Snow Cat," he said.

A shop in Grand Junction is working on the machine and the club could pick up the groomer by the end of the week, Nelson said.

The tracked snow machine grooms trails for public skiing and snowshoeing trails at Steamboat Lake State Park and grooms snowmobile trails in the Routt National Forest. About half of the money to buy the brand new groomer, $92,000, came from the Colorado State Trails Committee. The other half came from locals Don Markley and Ed MacArthur, who are both members of the club and own snowmobile-touring companies that operate in North Routt. Both men put up $46,000 for the machine.

The Steamboat Lake Snow Club has about 25 members who are snowmobilers and skiers living in North Routt. The group works together to provide the public with better access to trails in the area, as well as solving motorized and nonmotorized backcountry issues.

"It's just a bunch of guys who want to make things work and have an interest in the community," Nelson said.

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