4 snowmobilers cited for riding in nonmotorized locations

Snowmobilers head along Routt County Road 38 up Buffalo Pass in January 2020. File photo.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Four snowmobilers were issued citations over the weekend for reoccurring violations of operating snowmobiles in nonmotorized zones on Buffalo and Rabbit Ears passes.

Routt County has seen “quite a few” violations this year, according to U.S. Forest Service Spokesman Aaron Voos. Violations are more widespread in the areas closest to Steamboat Springs, which Voos attributed to ease of access.

“This has been a consistent issue in Steamboat,” Voos said.

Rabbit Ears Pass has designated areas for motorized uses, and the west side of Buffalo Pass has a winter backcountry permit area, where a permit is required for all uses.

“A lot of times, we hear that people didn’t know a boundary existed somewhere,” Voos said. “We’re really trying to emphasize that the public needs to educate themselves before they head out and bring some kind of map or mapping tool so you know where those boundaries are.”

While Voos said safety can be a concern when motorized users recreate in nonmotorized areas, the larger issue is that those in nonmotorized forest areas want quiet and solitude, which is difficult to obtain with snowmobiles or motorized bicycles in the background.

“Wilderness was partly developed to make sure those areas weren’t being used for certain things, and they lose a lot of the character that a lot of people desire,” Voos said. “There has been a lot of effort that has gone into creating those boundaries over the years.”

Voos also said while the Forest Service sees very few safety issues when motorized users recreate in nonmotorized areas, nonmotorized users report difficulty and conflict in navigating terrain.

“A snowmobiler may not be yielding to someone snowshoeing or cross country skiing, and a cross county skier might cut across exactly where a snowmobiler is going,” Voos said. “Different user groups in the community have worked to make sure there’s still multiuse opportunities for all groups to utilize the areas.

“That’s a big thing with regards to the community and how these areas came to place.”

Michael Woodbridge, district ranger for the Routt National Forest’s Hahns Peak and Bears Ears Ranger District, said recreators need to understand rules and boundaries of their destination before visiting.

“It is imperative that forest visitors know before they go,” Woodbridge said. “The Routt National Forest offers unparalleled recreation opportunities. For visitor enjoyment and resource protection, some limitations exist related to seasons and types of use. It is the responsibility of visitors to know these limitations. We are actively enforcing restrictions in certain areas of the forest, especially our wilderness areas.”

Maps and information regarding these regulations are free and available at Forest Service offices or online at the Forest Service website, Routt Powder Riders and Steamboat Springs Chamber. There are multiple online and physical map tools, such as Avenza, which can be used to determine location on forest land. Many can be functional without cellphone coverage.

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