Aspen snowmobiles restricted |

Aspen snowmobiles restricted

ASPEN, Colorado ” The U.S. Forest Service will crack down on snowmobile use on the back of Aspen Mountain next winter and restrict the machines to county roads, Aspen-Sopris District Ranger Irene Davidson says.

The Aspen Skiing Co.’s Aspen Mountain Powder Tours will be able to continue to use snowcats for its operation, she said. The public will not be able to stray off county roads to shuttle powder skiers back to the top of slopes.

The Forest Service intends to have a person patrolling an area called Richmond Ridge two to four times per week.

The emphasis will be educating snowmobile users about the new regulation, Davidson said, but tickets can also be issued. She was uncertain what fine can levied for people who ignore closures.

The decision caught ski company officials and the founder of a citizens’ group fighting for public access by surprise Tuesday.

Mike Sladdin, founder and president of Powder to the People, said he was disappointed by the decision.

“This basically goes against everything we’ve been working toward with broad community support over the years,” he said.

Sladdin said he thought there was an open, collaborative process with the various parties with a stake in the issue. Now it “appears” there was “intense, behind-the-scenes lobbying by the ski company,” he said.

Aspen Mountain Powder Tours and Powder to the People reached a truce in the powder dispute four years ago. A so-called “gentlemen’s agreement” between them allowed public snowmobiles to use a temporary road groomed on the snow by Aspen Mountain Powder Tours.

In return, Powder to the People members agreed to keep their sleds out of other areas where the powder tours are offered.

Davidson said Powder to the People members abide by the agreement and aren’t creating the problem. But a lot of other skiers who use snowmobiles and people out on snowmobiling trips are creating problems by traveling on public restricted land and venturing onto private property.

Sladdin said he’s not convinced that the Forest Service will be able to enforce the restrictions. He predicted there will be “bandito” skiing on the back of Aspen Mountain this winter.

Davidson stressed that her decision doesn’t effect snowmobilers’ use of the public, county roads on the back of Aspen Mountain, including Richmond Ridge Road, Little Annie Road and Midnight Mine Road.

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