Low snow leads to poor conditions, tension on groomed Emerald Mountain trails

Snow blankets Steamboat Springs, as seen from the top of Emerald Mountain.
Katie Berning

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The lack of snow in the Yampa Valley is making it difficult for city of Steamboat Springs crews to groom away the mistakes and scars that some trail users have left up on the cross-country ski trails on Emerald Mountain.

Skiers are starting to complain about the poor conditions, including deep ruts that city officials suspect were left by beginning snow bike riders who weren’t properly using the trails, or paying for the necessary passes.

And in responding to emailed complaints from skiers about conditions, City Manager Gary Suiter said he personally felt the conditions weren’t suitable for allowing fat bikes alongside skiers on the groomed trails.

The city is continuing to allow the winter bikes on the trails, but officials are calling on all trail users to show respect for one another so everyone can make the best out of the limited snow.

While fat bikes are allowed on Emerald’s groomed trails when conditions are right, riders must follow certain guidelines to ensure they don’t leave behind ruts that can ruin a cross-country ski experience.

“If you’re leaving a rut greater than an inch deep, you shouldn’t be on the trail,” city Parks, Open Space and Trails Manager Craig Robinson said.

With a lack of snow, the city hasn’t been able to groom away trail damage at higher elevations.

Cyclists, who currently aren’t allowed to ride on groomed trails from 2 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday due to cross-country ski training, must also purchase a pass to ride on the groomed trails.

In addition to scars left by cyclists, the city is also seeing some negative impacts from hikers and dogs walking on trails where they’re not supposed to be.

“I would say at the beginning of the season, we always have a challenge (getting trail users to obey rules and purchase passes), but this is particularly challenging because of the low snow conditions,” Robinson said.

Robinson noted there are trails on Emerald, especially ones west of Blackmer Drive, that do not require a pass and are not designated for cross-country skiers.

He encouraged users to educate one another about the rules on the trails so that conditions can be maintained.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10.

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