Smokey Bear reminds visitors of the wildfire danger at the Steamboat Ski Area gondola entrance.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Smokey Bear reminds visitors of the wildfire danger at the Steamboat Ski Area gondola entrance.

Plans in place should fire strike at Steamboat Ski Area

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Stage 2 fire restrictions

Stage 2 fire restrictions remain in effect for all lands, public and private, throughout Routt County. That includes established campgrounds and other park facilities where fires typically are allowed.

■ Open flames, including campfires, stove fires and use of charcoal grills. The use of propane grills is allowed.

■ Smoking, except within an enclosed vehicle or building.

■ Possessing or using fireworks or other pyrotechnic devices, including tracer ammunition.

■ Using explosives, including targets that could explode.

■ Using any internal or external combustion engines (such as chain saws) without a properly working spark arrester.

■ Possessing or using a vehicle off road except when parking in areas cleared of vegetation.

■ Welding or operating an acetylene or torch with an open flame.

— Snowmaking equipment can help salvage a ski season during a snow-starved winter, and it also could be useful during a hot and dry summer when the threat of wildfires is high.

With no major work being done this summer on the miles of pipe underground at Steamboat Ski Area, the lines are charged, and 240 hydrants are capable of supplying water should a fire threaten Mount Werner.

“It’s definitely another tool that we can use,” Erick Stahlin said. “We normally don’t have that up in the hills.”

Stahlin works out of Steamboat Springs’ U.S. Forest Service office as the assistant fire management officer, and in 2007, he saw firsthand how snowmaking equipment can be deployed while working at fire in Idaho that had scorched parts of Sun Valley Resort's Bald Mountain.

With the fire running through the crowns of the trees, the snow guns were faced toward the forest and fired up.

“It helped drop the fire down to the ground,” Stahlin said.

The Associated Press reported that the snowmaking equipment also was used to put out spot fires and soak the ground around the 17,000-square-foot, $12 million ski lodge, which was saved.

The same strategies could be used to help protect the ski lifts and major structures like the Thunderhead and Rendezvous buildings, said Doug Allen, vice president of operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. “We have deployed some snowmaking equipment to the key areas,” he said.

If needed, snow guns potentially could help reinforce a fire line from the top of Storm Peak to the bottom.

“It could be a very good tool to control fire, to keep it from going across a trail,” Allen said.

Plans are in place should a fire threaten the ski area, Allen said, and that involves training.

On Monday, employees at the ski area will meet with fire officials from the Forest Service and Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue. Allen said they will be training with the snowmaking equipment and making sure things like fittings are compatible with those used by firefighters.

Steps also have been taken to prevent a human-caused fire from occurring on the mountain.

“Awareness is No. 1, and I think we’ve made quite a campaign to make people aware of the situation,” Allen said.

A cutout of Smokey Bear at the entrance to the gondola lets visitors know about the fire danger. The information appears on trail maps and signs, as well.

Under Stage 2 fire restrictions in place across Routt County, smoking outdoors is not allowed, but Allen said the ski area has approved a designated smoking area outside the main Thunderhead entrance.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

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