Winter rec rules return

Forest Service to require permits to play on Buff Pass

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— For the second year, permits will again be required for outdoor activity in parts of Buffalo Pass area, and the west side of Rabbit Ears Pass is designated strictly for non-motorized uses.

The Forest Service is encouraging people who plan to play in Forest Service lands to become educated about rules and restrictions.

"Everybody has a responsibility to know what the rules are, and we provide that information," said Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Ritschard.

The Buffalo Pass permits are free again this year, and they are required for people who use the Buffalo Pass Winter Backcountry Permit Area between Dec. 15 and March 31. A map detailing the boundaries, along with permit information, can be viewed at www.fs.fed.us/r2/mbr. Boundaries will be marked when there is enough snow to plant poles. Maps showing the permit areas will be posted at trailheads.

Daily permits are available at trailheads, but anyone wanting a free season-long permit needs to go to the Forest Service Office. In Steamboat, the office is located at 925 Weiss Drive, across from the Holiday Inn on U.S. Highway 40.

The permit program started last year as part of the Forest Service's Winter Recreation Management Plan Decision.

"We think it went pretty well," Ritschard said. "There was a learning curve for some people."

Although the permits are free this year, that likely will change. Money from permit fees in the future will be used to help manage the area, Ritschard said.

As part of the winter recreation plan, restrictions were enacted in the Rabbit Ears Pass area. Motorized and non-motorized uses will be separated, with only non-motorized uses allowed on the west side of the pass summit.

Also, there must be at least 12 inches of snow on the ground before people can snowmobile on land where the machines are allowed.

"We do this to protect the forest," Ritschard said.

There currently is not enough snow on Rabbit Ears Pass, but there is on Buffalo Pass, she said.

Snowmobiles are not allowed in any wilderness areas, such as the Flat Tops.

Ignoring winter regulations can result in fines and jail time.

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