More people are riding snowmobiles in the San Juan Mountains causing a negative impact on the land and congestion on the trails. This has lead to the question of whether the use of snowmobiles needs to be regulated. The number of snowmobiles has increased dramatically over the last year says Anthony Garcia a biologist at San Juan National Forest.
Due to COVID-19 and many businesses being shut down more consumers have been snowmobiling and visiting the San Juan Mountains. This has lead to complaints from citizens to have laws that regulate the use of motorized vehicles. At this time snowmobiles have few restrictions.
Also, there are more vehicles this year because the San Juan Forest was the only location in the United States, with enough snow for this type of recreation this winter. The increased numbers has lead to more search and rescue operations. Parking has been a major problem too.
Snowmobiles are using ski trails like the one for the Nordic Club on Fall Creek Road. They are allowed on the trails but must respect the skiers. Lately, they have been riding on these trails and tearing up the trails making this a safety issue for skiers. The noise that snowmobiles make is another issue and its impact on wildlife.
At this time, all snowmobiles must be registered in Colorado, and motorized vehicles used for winter sports. They are not allowed in wilderness areas but it’s hard to catch users when they break this rule.
James Simino, district ranger at San Juan National Forest says that they do not have a plan for motorized vehicles and winter travel plan. He says they were not prepared for the increased use of motorized vehicles in the summer and winter. Most areas don’t have the time and staff to tackle the issue.
A winter travel plan will ease some of the problems for snowmobilers. They will know where they are allowed to ride and skiers will be able to maintain their trails. The plan should close areas off that are winter habitats for wildlife. Conflict among winter sports users has been going on for years and needs some rules to resolve the issue.