I will go through and refute his inaccurate points so that at least the truth is out there for the public to read, a far cry from the whining printed in his letter. (“Ban the [Bleeping] Snowmobilers. Oops, Did I Say That?” in the April 24 Ouray County Watch.)
The first jab that frosts me is the notion that anybody snowmobiling Red Mountain Pass is lazy. I challenge you, Mr. Shelton, to just try and wrestle a 500-pound machine around the back country. You would be crying for mercy after 15 minutes of riding up there. It is not for the faint of heart. You confuse us with Midwestern trail riding sledders. Snowmobiling the way we do it around these parts is far more physical than hiking and skiing. I have done both, there is no comparison.
The next humorous bit regards the lynx. They have been trying to re-introduce the lynx to the area. I read that they tracked one of the lynx released in this area to Wyoming. The misguided might suggest it was because snowmobiles chased them out. That is a riot. The lynx couldn’t find a quiet spot between here and Wyoming? Wyoming’s snowy range, by the way, attracts exponentially more sledders than Red Mountain Pass. That ptarmigan was listed as well. As anybody who has ever hunted any type of game animals knows, machines do not bother them. Human scent and human voices are far more frightening to animals than the white noise a machine produces. I would suggest that if anything has chased the limited amount of winter wildlife in that area away it would be the increased number of skiers.
I don’t like being lumped into a category where it is presumed we do not care about safety. Avalanche safety is first on my list. I will not ride with anybody up there who does not carry a beacon, shovel and probe along with the knowledge of how to use these items. I check the (avalanche) forecast every day I ride, and more often than that to watch trends. There are a couple of us who have even invested in an avalanche airbag system to help prevent burials. We are very picky when it comes to steep terrain. In fact, we generally do not even ride the steeps until spring mornings when the snow pack is set up like a rock. None of my group has ever needed to be extricated from an avalanche.
Then pollution numbers must be ten years old. Technology has not only allowed us to travel further in to the back country but it has allowed that travel to be much cleaner than before. All of the manufacturers offer efficient, clean-burning, fuel-injected models now, with Yamaha leading the way with even cleaner four stroke models. I also have to wonder if the skiers have noticed the highway that runs through there? There are hundreds of cars and trucks that pass through there daily, and the skiers themselves drive to the top in polluting automobiles. If you want to stop pollution, you had better start walking to the top of the pass. You have bad information and then try to split hairs on it. We all pollute to some extent, the majority of us do our part to minimize it. I do not think banning sleds from Red Mountain Pass is going to change anything.
The noise follows directly. I have been stuck, or maybe just stopped for lunch and literally been scared off the snow by jake-braking semitrucks negotiating the pass. It will never be a perfectly serene venue, unless of course you choose to ban all the life supporting commerce that crossed the pass by necessity. Mr. Shelton must also have superhuman hearing if he can hear us two-to-three ridgelines away. One ridge or grove of trees is all that is required to dissipate the noise. That was a disingenuous statement, one of the many designed to elicit a negative response towards my chosen winter activity.
Now my personal favorite. Mr. Shelton claims snowmobiles have lands open to them in a 7:1 ratio over skier accessible lands. That is simply false. All of the lands open to motorized travel are also open to non-motorized travel. So the skiers can go anywhere. It is all open to them; there are no closures to non-motorized traffic. Closures affect only motorized travelers, making that point moot. That notion that we, as motorized users, can go someplace else is completely unfair. Not to mention, that would produce even more pollution because we have to double or triple travel time, which way do you want it?
Red Mountain Pass is 13 miles from my home. It has the earliest and latest snow pack in the area and great reserves of deep snow on powder days. The greedy skiers want it all to themselves and try to poison the issue with nonsensical arguments, please do not buy into them. Not only are they lobbying for Red Mountain, they would also like to see further closure in Elk Meadows, Owl Creek, and Molas Pass areas. The truth is they already have massive closure they can ski to their hearts content. From the top of Red Mountain Pass, all the way to the town of Ouray, west of U.S. Hwy. 550 all the way to Telluride is closed to motorized traffic. So instead of taking the already abundant lands closed specifically to them the skiers want more. I think it is absurd.
Just April 29 on our ride I had some fool skiers standing on a cornice above the climb I was making trying to wave me off. I waved back. Who endangers who here? This guy was above me standing out on the slide prone cornice like he owned the place. We were riding legally on BLM lands. The expectations seemed to be that we would go somewhere else, and then we were flipped the bird and they skied down the other side, like they had been earlier in the day anyway.
I don’t have any problem sharing, nor do any of my sledding friends. What we are here to protest is the foolish notion that we are taking over a historical ski venue. I have news for you guys, the snowmobilers have been there just as long, and that is no precedent to making a closure anyway. You whiny skiers need to just deal with it. We are here to stay. The sooner you get over your arrogant attitudes, the sooner we can work with each other to set respectful boundaries. Trying to force me out simply will not work.
– Brent Holm, Ouray