By Jack Weinstein
Steamboat Springs, Colo. - Recent snowstorm may have allayed the U.S. Forest Service's concerns about snowmobile enthusiasts riding on less than a foot of snow, but officials still want to stress that sledding in bare areas could result in a citation.
Steve McCone, winter recreation manager for the Forest Service's Hahns Peak-Bears Ears Ranger District office, said snowmobiling on less than a foot of snow in permitted areas of Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass is prohibited because of the damage if causes to vegetation.
"You can really see it after the snow melts off," he said. "You can see it where people have broken the vegetation, gone down to dirt and ripped it up."
But after the recent snowfalls and projections for additional accumulation, McCone said that might be a moot point.
"This year we had that early snow and it was enough in most spots they could ride on," he said. "Then we had that long dry spell and it was getting close again, but now I don't think it's going to be a problem at all. I think it's going to be a moot point now."
McCone and other Forest Service officials also are doing their best to keep snowmobiles out of Wilderness areas as well as those areas of Buffalo Pass and Rabbit Ears Pass where sledding is restricted.
To see a map of where it's permissible to ride a snowmobile on Buffalo Pass or Rabbit Ears Pass, go to www.steamboatpilot.com. Or see the attached PDF.
Anyone caught riding a snowmobile in less than a foot of snow could get a $125 citation, McCone said. He said riding a snowmobile in Wilderness areas is punishable by as much as a $5,000 fine and as much as six months in jail.