Steamboat Springs In response to a number of inquiries and at least one incident of people snowmobiling within the boundaries of the Steamboat Ski Area, U.S. Forest Service officials are warning snowmachiners that the practice is illegal.
A news release from Diann Ritschard, public affairs specialist for the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, warns that "anyone caught snowmobiling on the ski area may receive citations and fines." Janet Faller, a Forest Service employee who administers the ski area's permit for use of forest service land, said the rules exist primarily for safety reasons.
Faller said as temperatures increase, so does the likelihood of snowmobilers running into hidden obstructions on unmaintained ski trails and elsewhere.
"During the ski season, the (Steamboat) Ski Patrol is maintaining the ski area and marking obstacles," Faller said. "Now there could be unknown hazards or unmarked hazards."
As workers prepare the ski mountain for summer, a number of manmade hazards that don't exist during the winter might arise, Faller said. That includes vehicles plowing roads for easier access or hauling equipment on mountain trails.
To avoid those hazards, Faller recommends snowmobiling on Buffalo Pass or Rabbit Ears Pass, which are open for public use. Depending on melt patterns, higher elevation trails could stay open as late as June, Faller said.
"There's still lots of snow up there," she said. "But a lot of it depends on what happens with the weather. With any spring, when you get spring thaw, you start to get some stuff exposed."
Hiking up the slopes of Mount Werner to ski or snowboard is allowed, Faller said. For all winter activities, the Forest Service advises checking conditions before setting out, and carrying extra food, water, dry clothing and other supplies, as conditions can change quickly and with little warning.
The Forest Service also encourages snowmobilers to take straps for towing and snowshoes.