Rabbit Ears Pass snowmobile trail status under review

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■ Comment on the proposed Overlook Trail snowmobile route at comments-rm-medicine-bow-routt-hahns-peak-bears-ears@fs.fed.us. Or visit www.fs.usda.gov, search for “Hahn’s Peak Ranger District,” click on “Land and Resources Management” in the left-hand column, scroll down and click on “Schedule of Proposed Actions” and scroll about two-thirds of the way down the long list to find the Overlook Trail link. When submitting comments on the Web, the subject line must be “Overlook Trail.”

■ Follow future documents and information on Overlook Trail at www.fs.usda.gov/goto/mbr/projects.

— Interested snowmobilers, skiers, snowshoers and all members of the public have until Tuesday to comment on a proposal to add a snowmobile trail to the existing network in the area of Rabbit Ears Pass on the back side of Mount Werner.

Comment can be made on the U.S. Forest Service website.

The Overlook Trail is a historically used but not marked, groomed or maintained trail that runs from Long Park to the South Fork of Fish Creek east of Steamboat Ski Area, according to the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District of the Medicine Bow/Routt National Forests. The trail offers a vista of the ski area, Rabbit Ears Pass and the Flat Tops.

In a letter seeking public comment, District Ranger Jamie Kingsbury described an ambiguous set of circumstances related to the trail, which is on the western edge of the area currently open to snowmobiles. Those circumstances trace back to 2005, when the Forest Service completed the winter recreation management analysis that resulted in the separation of motorized and non-motorized uses on Rabbit Ears.

“Initially, the 2005 (winter recreation management) proposed action excluded snowmobiles in the area adjacent to the Overlook Trail route,” Kingsbury wrote. “Due to the importance of this area to snowmobilers, the area including the Overlook Trail was kept open for snowmobiling in the final decision. The (winter recreation management) decision did not authorize the marking and designation of the route as an official snowmobile trail.”

Kent Foster, project manager for the Forest Service, said Friday that his research of the 2005 file failed to uncover any mention of Overlook Trail. However, it’s clearly within the motorized area.

The Routt Powder Riders hold a special-use permit from the Forest Service to groom and maintain trails on Rabbit Ears and Buffalo passes. Kingsbury’s letter states they may request changes to permit operations in writing, and in this case, they have formally asked to have the Overlook Trail marked and recognized on all official maps.

“They have further stated that the Forest Service was mistaken in the 2005 (winter recreation management) decision when they recognized that the route existed but did not designate it as a trail in the system,” Kingsbury wrote.

Routt Powder Riders President Mary Sue Sorenson confirmed Friday that her group thinks the formal recognition of Overlook Trail was overlooked after the 2005 decision and that adding it to trail maps would allow destination snowmobilers to find it.

“It has an amazing view from a point above Hogan Park,” she said. “You can see the Flat Tops and out to the west.”

One backcountry skier who sent a letter of opposition to putting Overlook Trail on the snowmobile trail map wrote: “The proposed Overlook Trail encroaches on the only easily accessible north facing ski terrain in the county. It sees daily use by numerous skiers. There are many named ski lines in this area. Sugar Mama, Sugar Baby, Longest Mostest, East Face, Girly Turn, Matts Trees, and Bruiser Bowl to name only a few. Obviously, this is a very important area for skiers.”

Kingsbury’s letter states that is not the intent of the current scoping effort to change the 2005 winter recreation management decision but to clarify the decision that was made.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email tross@SteamboatToday.com

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