Steamboat Springs With measurable snow at higher elevations across Northwest Colorado, regional U.S. Forest Service officials are reminding snowmobilers to keep out of designated wilderness areas, among other regulations.
The Routt National Forest has about 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and hundreds of thousands of acres of rideable terrain, according to the Forest Service. But motorized equipment of any kind is illegal in wilderness areas. Each year, Forest Service and Colorado State Parks staff cite riders who illegally enter designated nonmotorized areas such as the Mount Zirkel, Sarvis Creek and Flat Tops wilderness areas.
The minimum fine for snowmobilers caught riding in wilderness areas is $525 and can go all the way up to $5,000 and six months in jail.
“It is a privilege to have so many freedoms when recreating on public lands, but with that privilege comes responsibility,” Forest Service law enforcement officer Mike Seawall said in a news release. “Snowmobilers must know where they are riding at all times to avoid illegal trespass into wilderness or other areas where snowmobiles are prohibited.”
Other snowmobile regulations:
■ A free backcountry-use permit is required for all snowmobilers riding in the Buffalo Pass Winter Recreation Area.
■ Snowmobiles must stay on designated trails within the mixed use and commercial area in the Buffalo Pass Winter Recreation Area. For map of the area, visit www.fs.usda.gov/mbr.
■ To protect vegetation, snowmobiling is allowed only where 12 inches or more of snow is on the ground.
■ All snowmobiles must have a valid Colorado snowmobile registration.
■ Snowcats have the right of way on trails.
As Forest Service did with summer recreationists, it is warning winter users of the dangers of beetle-killed pine trees throughout the region. Specifically, the Forest Service advises users to stay out of the woods at times of high winds.