Meet Your Forest column: Stay updated on snowmobile safety |

Meet Your Forest column: Stay updated on snowmobile safety

A wise and safe snowmobile operator knows the rules of the trails in Colorado.
Getty Images / Ingram Publishing | Ingram Publishing

Snowmobile safety is important for your enjoyment of the forest. Knowledge of the ever-changing weather forecast, especially the avalanche and snow conditions in the winter backcountry, is critical and can make the difference between a good day and the worst day.


Registrations are valid annually from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30 of the following year. The validation decals must be permanently affixed on each side of the upper half of the machine’s cowling, and the operator must carry the certificate of registration while operating the snowmobile. Private snowcats also require registration. Your snowmobile must be registered before it comes to a trail head.

To register your favorite winter toy, you will need:

• Applicant’s name, address and date of birth

• Snowmobile make, model, model year, VIN and cubic centimeters engine displacement

• Date purchased and proof of ownership or valid transfer registration certificate

• Machine use

The annual Colorado state snowmobile registration fee is $30.25, and can be purchased at the Friends of the Dillon Ranger District store, located at the Dillon Ranger District building, 608 Blue River Parkway in Silverthorne. Fee revenue goes directly to grooming winter trails throughout the state and the registrations enable authorities to reclaim stolen machines.

Buy your Colorado state snowmobile registration at the new Friends of the Dillon Ranger District store, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday closed for lunch 12:30-1:30 p.m. White River National Forest permits, maps, and great information on local trails and the conditions are also available. There is always a friendly visitor information specialist to answer your questions about all the fun adventures in Summit County. Obtain a DRD Winter Motor Vehicle Use Map (MVUM) to learn what routes are closed and open to snowmobilers.

Snowmobiles can bring you to the ends of the earth and back again. While getting that off-piste photo or hitting up that perfect line, remember you are a guest in our national forest lands. At this time of year, life is dormant but not dead. The regeneration of next year’s forest is taking place.

Snowmobiles share these interior trails with snowshoes, cross-country skiers and backcountry enthusiasts, all of whom treasure the winter wonders that exist in Summit County. Please be considerate of your friends and neighbors, and don’t forget about the other creatures that inhabit the forest. If you see violations in the forestlands or animals being pursued, don’t hesitate to report it to the nearest law enforcement officer.


A wise and safe snowmobile operator knows the rules of the trails in Colorado. These can be found on Carefully following the rules shows proper respect to Mother Nature during the winter season. Avid snowmobilers can increase their excitement by taking a Snowmobile Safety Certification Course through their local snowmobile clubs, the Colorado Snowmobile Association, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. For more information, visit the helpful snowmobile links page or contact your local CPW office.

A few of the important laws include having an approved muffler for noise reduction, being equipped with working brakes that are sufficient to control the snowmobile under any condition and having proper lighting, with at least one headlamp that can reveal persons and objects at a distance of at least 100 feet ahead and a red light plainly visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear. Make sure your headlights and taillights are free of snow, especially when ripping in deep powder.

Snowmobile safety is important for your enjoyment of the forest. Knowledge of the ever-changing weather forecast, especially the avalanche and snow conditions in the area, is critical. Because of unpredictable conditions, it is crucial for snowmobilers to carry and know how to use avalanche rescue gear. Check the local avalanche and winter forecast before entering the backcountry, and travel with an experienced partner. Carry a topographical map or GPS to keep track of mountain peaks, valleys and rivers. It is each user’s responsibility to know his or her location in relation to the map. Observing and obeying all signage protects sensitive wildlife and wilderness areas in their natural state. Carry a flashlight or flare for emergency signaling, but never blaze a new trail at night.

Wear sensible, protective clothing and use a full-size helmet, goggles or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice chips, flying debris and of course frostbite/ hypothermia. Do not wear long scarves; they can get caught in the moving parts of the snowmobile.

The snowmobile advancements of the past 10 years grant access to remote places seen by few and enable rescues that otherwise couldn’t happen. During the winter season’s splendors, remember that conditions change fast and without warning. Avalanche or drowning fatalities can result when snowmobilers venture into inappropriate places. Remember, your safety is your responsibility.

Favorite White River National Forest snowmobile trail areas include Trail 1 Golden Horseshoe, Trail 2 Spring Creek Area and Trail 3 Montezuma Area 4VPWA. Leave behind only thoughtful tracks, so come summer, we all can enjoy the same trails. Don’t forget to join us on a volunteer day this summer to preserve your favorite trail. Mother Nature will thank you.

Jasmine Hupcey is the office and volunteer manager for Friends of the Dillon Ranger District. Contact her at For information on volunteer opportunities, visit

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