Our View: Buff Pass fee makes sense


Editorial Board, October 2009 through February 2010

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Blythe Terrell, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Michelle Garner, community representative
  • Paula Cooper Black, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— The U.S. Forest Service’s plan to impose a $5 day-use fee on Buffalo Pass could be a reasonable measure to address traffic, parking, trash and other concerns at the heavily used recreation area just north of Steamboat Springs city limits. But there’s much to be worked out — and deservedly so — before such a fee is put in place.

At the top of that list is how revenues from the fee would be used to improve and maintain the 7,300-acre Buff Pass backcountry area. With 5,000 free day-use permits issued for the area last winter and another 500 free seasonal permits handed out, those revenues could add up quickly. The Forest Service has a draft business plan addressing how those revenues would be spent, but that plan won’t be shared with the public until a final version is completed. However, Routt National Forest spokeswoman Diann Ritschard said if fees were approved, the money would be used to improve and possibly expand parking at Dry Lake Campground, provide toilets and additional signage and fund extra patrols of the area.

Forest Service recreation specialist Kent Foster said last week that the proposed fees could be in place as soon as next winter, but that timeline may be optimistic. Any fee proposal first must be approved by the Forest Service Regional Office and by a statewide Recreation Resource Advisory Committee made up of user group representatives.  

The fee issue, which has been around for years, again is raising the hackles of local motorized and nonmotorized advocacy groups.

Leslie Lovejoy, director of the Friends of the Routt Backcountry skiers and snowshoers group, says nonmotorized users aren’t the problem and therefore shouldn’t have to pay.

George Kostiuk, vice president of the Routt Powder Riders snowmobile club, wonders what the Forest Service will provide to justify the fee. Expanded and improved parking areas are at the top of his list.

A Winter Recreation Management Plan adopted several years ago sought to diffuse the angst between motorized and nonmotorized backcountry users. The plan created boundaries separating the user groups, and failure to abide by the regulations can result in fines of as much as $5,000 and/or as many as six months in jail.

While Ritschard acknowledges that the tension between motorized and nonmotorized users seems to have dissipated in recent years, it probably never will go away completely. The popularity of Buff Pass — highly regarded for its abundant snow and expansive terrain — isn’t likely to wane, either.

That’s why it makes sense for the Forest Service to adopt a day-use fee that would result in a better and safer user experience. We also like the idea of a seasonal pass that costs $30 or $40 for those regular users of Buff Pass. Fish Creek Falls, currently the only area on the Routt National Forest that charges a day-use fee, provides an example of the good that can result from such revenues. The Forest Service’s business plan, when finalized, must clearly outline how and when those revenues will benefit Buff Pass users.  


jeff roman 7 years, 4 months ago

leslie,do you not also drive youre vehicle to the parkinh lot.a parking spot is a parking spot,no matter how you use it.i personally put my snow machine in the back of my truck and therefore only take up one spot.how would you like to handle this.youre so selfish its unbelievable


sledneck 7 years, 4 months ago

Selfish? The half hasn't been told!

"I'mmmmmmm special. I should be exempt"... Really??? I hear that a lot with that crowd. I don't know whether they actually believe it or if they just want us to believe it.

Doesn't do a lot to promote harmony and cooperation among user groups.


Kevin Chapman 7 years, 4 months ago

Neither do YOUR comments sledneck not all people actually appreciate sarcasm. I do both activities and can see both sides, good luck ironing out those wrinkles. The fee isn't a bad idea and if it imposed it should be universal. Five bucks ain't bad compared to 95 bucks to ski on the ski area.


2strokesmoke 7 years, 4 months ago

everyone should pay,, and there should be a fee, this coming from a snomobilier and and snomo skier, I havent gone to Buff pass for overcrowding problems for years, I have friends that work at powder cats and have walked the runs everyone uses with them picking up trash left behind we came out with belts, beer cans, wrappers bungy cords, ski poles I dont know about the Routt powder riders or the Friends of the backcountry but I havent heard any of those groups organizing trash pick ups post season, ( I am sure if I am wrong it'll show up shortly). The money should go first to the parking area, then to signage. If 5 bucks puts a hole in your pocket, put one less gallon in your tank... one less six pack, 2 less granola bars...

If we cant govern ourselves someone else will... that's where we are at like it or not..

Kelly Phillips


sledneck 7 years, 4 months ago

Neither the Routt Powder Riders nor Friends of the Backcountry run a commercial opperation in that area. Blue Sky West (powder cats) is permitted for 2,200 people / year and they charge $400 / seat. Thats $880,000 being generated by the use of the American peoples land. They should be happy to pick up some trash. They should also play a part in expanding the parking lot. But they will fight any parking expansion bitterly because of their ownership issues with that area.

The Routt Powder Riders volunteers hundreds of hours on the forest grooming trails, marking trails and keeping a very expensive groomer running at NO cost to taxpayers. That puts them way ahead of Friends of the Backcountry on service and way below the Powder Cats on proffit.

I agree we need to govern ourselves and I believe most of us do despite our sometimes coarse tone. I could live with the fees and I think most sledders could deal with fees but they expect to have a parking space. They also darn sure expect everyone who uses the lot to pay equally.

I also agree the $$$ should go for parking. When I say parking I mean capacity expansion, not just putting some lipstick on the little piggy of a parking lot we have now.

Everyone needs to remember that even if you don't use the area it is important to you. If others give up on Buff Pass you will see them at YOUR favorite / secret spot soon.


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