The Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area will open for the winter season Friday, according to a release from the U.S. Forest Service.
The area, with grooming six nights a week on a rotating cycle of trails shared by snowmobilers and backcountry skiers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers and more, will enact fee usage of the area beginning Friday.
The Vail Pass rec area encompasses more than 50,000 acres and extends from Copper Mountain on the east to Vail Mountain on the west, Camp Hale to the south and the Interstate 70 corridor to the north, according to Forest Service officials.
The recreation available is the result of collaborative efforts between the Forest Service and the Vail Pass Task Force, a citizen's advisory group. Fees are collected 24 hours a day at self-pay fee stations located at all Vail Pass trailheads.
Season passes can be purchased at the Vail Pass Trailhead on Saturdays and Sundays, or the Dillon Ranger District Office in Silverthorne and the Holy Cross Ranger District Office in Minturn during regular business hours.
The fees collected go toward trail grooming, free visitor maps, signage of motorized and non-motorized trails, parking lot management and snow removal, visitor information services, backcountry monitoring, separation of use and enforcement by Forest Service rangers. Rubber tired or wheeled vehicles are prohibited on Vail Pass rec area trails from Nov. 15 until May 20.
Parking for the area is available at Black Lakes Road for vehicles with trailers, and above the Colorado Department of Transportation rest area for skiers and snowshoers without trailers. Overnight parking or camping is prohibited at the Vail Pass Trailhead except for those users who are accessing the 10th Mountain huts.
Hut users please park at the top of the Black Lakes Road starting below the Forest Service Fee Station. Parking is available on a first- come first-serve basis - those arriving after the parking lot is full must wait for the first available parking space or leave for another trailhead. Parking on the east side of I-70 at Exit 190 and at the Colorado Department of Transportation sand shed is prohibited.
The three trailheads out of Camp Hale include Pando, Main Camp Hale and Camp Hale South. We encourage users with snowmobile trailers to park at the pull-thru off of Highway 24 at the Main Camp Hale Trailhead. Pando and Camp Hale South provide access for non-motorized users due to the limited parking area.
The Forest Service would like to encourage all users to practice safe trail etiquette by having avalanche gear, a map, respect of trail signage and non-motorized areas, and practice conservation of terrain when skiing and riding in the backcountry.
Asbestos was discovered in the valley floor of Camp Hale during the fall resulting in restrictions in place until the area is covered with at least one foot of snowpack. The area north of Pando remains closed and travel is restricted to system roads and trails in the southern portion of the valley.