North Routt snowmobile, ATV operator wins favorable response from Routt County Planning Commission

Tom Ross
Darren and Carroll Zamzow purchased the Hahn's Peak Roadhouse in 2011.
Tom Ross

The Routt County Planning Commission voted May 27 to approve revised special use permits for Hahn’s Peak Roadhouse, primarily for motorized guided and non-guided ATV and snowmobile tours on 12 acres across the road from Steamboat Lake State Park near Hahn’s Peak Village.

Operators Darren and Carroll Zamzow sought to split the permits between snowmobile tours in winter and primarily ATVs in summer in an effort to simplify layers of overlying regulations pertaining to the number of operations and time schedules that have evolved over a period of years. County government has historically reviewed 10 permit variations as it sought to balance the needs of the previous owners, Steamboat Lake Outfitters, and residential neighbors.

Commissioner Andy Benjamin cast the lone “no” vote against approval of the changes because he thought caps on snowmobile and ATV operations were unreasonable and failed to take into account population growth and long-term commercial growth in North Routt. Commission Chairman Steve Warnke, Commissioner Brian Arel and alternate Doug Baker all stepped down from the proceedings to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.

The permit application goes to the Board of County Commissioners at 2:30 p.m. June 9.

“The reason we’re here tonight is to start fresh with two new permits,” Darren Zamzow told the commissioners.

Planning Director Chad Phillips told the commission that he and planner Alan Goldich, who wrote the staff report, were reluctant to see the permits changed because the existing conditions of use placed upon the Roadhouse represented many public hearings that resulted in the least impact on the outfitters’ neighbors.

“The position staff took was to respect the previous decision that were made — sometimes involving hours of discussion. I didn’t want to discredit any of that,” Phillips said. We thought “relaxing conditions (of approval) didn’t respect what was already in place.”

Benjamin felt the county was going too far to limit the operation’s growth.

“We live and die on tourism in this valley,” he said. “This has had a long history of intense use. I don’t see how you can cap the numbers indefinitely.”

Commissioner Karl Koehler’s reaction to the permit application was representative of those other commissioners who voted to approve Zamzow’s requests.

“That area is off-road vehicle-recreation central,” he said. “I struggle a little bit with the complexity of the (existing) conditions. I do respect the conditions from the past, but boy, you are almost guaranteed disagreements and arguments when trying to regulate things this tightly.”

The Zamzows bought the business in 2011 and went through a series of contentious county hearings after their neighbors objected to the noise created by live musical entertainment, which they brought to the Roadhouse. Zamzow reported this month that he was in the process of enclosing a porch to better contain the noise created by live bands.

The Zamzows are seeking to free the growing numbers of guests who stay overnight at the Roadhouse either in recreational vehicles or the cabins on the property, from having to enjoy their ATVs and snowmobiles in a guided tour. Instead, they propose to provide escorts to lead overnight guest across an easement over private land that leads to the National Forest, then turn them loose. They would like to increase the number of machines they rent from 15 to 20.

Zamzow also sought permission to run guide-driven tours in a Chevy Yukon, to accommodate families whose members include people physically unable to ride their own ATV or snowmobile.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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