Winter Recreation in the Gunnison National Forest
US Forest Service History
Winter Travel Management in the Gunnison Valley
Gunnison National Forest is part of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest (GMUG). Gunnison NF was established in 1905 by President Theodore Roosevelt and named after explorer John W Gunnison. The forest encompasses about 2,613 square miles in five counties (Gunnison, Saguache, Hinsdale, Delta, and Montrose).
WINTER RECREATION ACTIVITIES
- Cross-Country Skiing/Touring (day tours)
- Backcountry Skiing/Boarding, Alpine Touring (peaks, hut trips)
- Nordic Skiing (groomed trails)
- Fat Bikes
- Snowmobiling (recreational and commercial users)
- Hybrid Users (skiers/boarders using snowmobiles to access backcountry)
- Snowcat Touring/Skiing (Irwin/Eleven)
Washingoton Gulch & Crested Butte Winter Recreation
The current status (open, allowed with restrictions, allowed but discouraged, or closed) of winter recreational uses around Crested Butte is shown on the FS Winter Recreation around Crested Butte brochure.
Problems with the existing winter travel management plan include:
- Interpretation of the document is confusing due to the vague language
- Budget cutbacks have limited the FS ability to enforce regulations
- Regulations only apply to a small part of the Gunnison NF
Winter Recreation CB
Washington Gulch Order
- The number of people, technological improvements, and types of winter recreation uses in the backcountry of the Gunnison Valley have changed dramatically since 1995 – we are at a tipping point again! Snowmobiles have become much more powerful and capable of accessing terrain once considered inaccessible. Backcountry ski, telemark and snowboard equipment has become much lighter and more advanced. An evolving new trend, alpine touring (AT), is the most rapidly growing and successful development in the ski industry. Snowshoeing, fat bikes, hiking and other uses in the backcountry continue to increase and new equipment advances are continually evolving. The use of powerful snowmobiles to travel across open meadows and other off road areas has also increased. A relatively new trend is the “hybrid” snowmobile/skier who uses snowmobiles to access close-in peaks and ridges (less than 3 or 4 miles from trailheads, such as Coney’s) and more distant peaks and ridges and even mountain tops (including Mt. Emmons) that were once inaccessible to snowmobiles has also dramatically increased in the past 20 years. WE ARE AT A TIPPING POINT AGAIN!!
- Existing document does not meet the requirements stipulated in the 2015 federal court ruling for over-snow vehicles (OSV)
The Power of the Few
A small number of concerned people representing the community at large, aka stakeholders, got together. After much discussion and debate, they developed a mutually agreed upon travel management plan which they submitted to the FS. The FS reviewed the document, made some revisions, issued a FONSI, and took action to approve the plan. Following a public comment period, it became the governing document.
This process, i.e., developing a revised winter travel management plan for FS review and approval, is what Silent Tracks and other stakeholders, will be undertaking in upcoming months! A collaborative effort between ALL of the stakeholders in the Gunnison Valley will be needed to develop a WTMP acceptable to a majority.