RED CLIFF - A huge hole dug in a snowmobile trail has Sheriff's investigators trying to determine if it's a booby trap.
The hole was dug at some point in the last few days up Homestake Road, on the way to the Homestake wilderness area off Highway 24. It's 15 feet wide, 10 feet long and about three feet deep.
It's at the top of an incline on a sweeping right-hand curve and in the trees, where it would be almost impossible to see from a moving snowmobile, until the rider plunged into it. So far, no one has.
"We're following some leads as part of our investigation," said Shannon Cordingly, spokeswoman for the Eagle County Sheriff's office.
The hole is on public land, and local Forest Service officials said Monday they are also investigating.
Local snowmobilers say it looks like it was dug to deliberately hurt someone.
"If you're sitting down as you normally would when you're riding, then you hit that, you have the potential to break both femurs. If a kid is riding in front of you, it could kill that child," said local outdoor guide Darryl Bangert, of Sage Outdoor Adventures.
The hole is surrounded by ski and snowshoe tracks. It's near the Whitney Trail area and Wolf Ranch up Homestake Road.
Bangert thinks the hole was dug with the intention of hurting snowmobilers.
"It's on a right hand curve that lots of people carry some speed around. It looks like someone put it there deliberately," Bangert said.
The trail is not part of any commercial guiding operation. Snowmobilers have marked the hole with dead tree branches to warn other riders in the area.
The hole was discovered by a local sledder out for a ride with some friends. He was the lead rider and had slowed to around 10 mph when spotted it, jumped off his sled and warned his friends.
"If you came around the corner at 30 mph, you'd run right into it," Bangert said.
The edges were cut at right angles, so it would not have been dug to get out a stuck snowmobile. It's unlikely a snowmobile would get stuck on the groomed trail.
The nearest drainage culverts are more than 50 yards away in both directions, so the square hole was not formed by water running under it.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.