Forest Service approves Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area fee |

Forest Service approves Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area fee

Snowmobiling on Vail Pass just got more expensive

The U.S. Forest Service has temporarily closed all the developed recreation areas in a five-state region.
Photo courtesy White River National Forest

The White River National Forest, in partnership with the Vail Pass Task Force, will implement a fee increase that was proposed earlier this year for the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area. Fees will change from $6 to $10 for a day pass and $40 to $65 for a season pass.

Public outreach for this proposal first took place in early 2015; the proposal was revised based on public comments and a second pubic outreach period took place from February to April 2019. A total of 258 comments were received with the wide majority either in support or neutral on the proposal. 

In approving the fee increase, the regional and national offices of the Forest Service determined that the new fee structure was reasonable based on increased operating costs, increasing visitation and the public outreach responses.

Fees have not increased at VPWRA since 2005 and since that time visitation has more than doubled with approximately 38,000 visitors last year. As visitation and operating costs have increased, expenses have outpaced revenue and the area has been operating at a deficit with funding being drawn away from other Forest Service programs.

The fee increase will allow the winter recreation area to be operated more sustainably. The increase will also allow the Ranger District and Vail Pass Task Force to provide improved visitor services such as more consistent parking lot plowing and trail grooming, and additional Forest Service ranger patrols. 

The Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area offers unique backcountry opportunities for snowmobilers, skiers, hut users, and other winter enthusiasts.  The 55,000-acre area is managed under authority from the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act of 2004.

Accordingly, 95% of the fees generated are returned directly to the site to pay for ranger staffing, map production and distribution, plowing of five parking areas, and the grooming, signing and maintenance needs on 67 miles of motorized trails and 52 miles of non-motorized trails.

VPWRA rangers are planning to start charging fees and begin plowing and grooming operations on Saturday, Nov. 30. Season passes will go on sale Monday, Nov. 4 and can be purchased at the Dillon Ranger Station in Silverthorne and at the Eagle-Holy Cross Ranger Station in Minturn. Day passes can be purchased at any of the five access points once the area is open for the winter. In addition, an automated fee station that accepts credit card payments is now in place at Vail Pass.

For further details please contact the Dillon Ranger District at 970-468-5400 or visit the fee increase project page:  

Download the Vail Pass map on Avenza:

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