Travel at your own risk on the Reservoir
SUMMIT COUNTY An accident like the snowmobiling death of a local man at Twin Lakes near Leadville over the weekend would be a rare occurrence on Dillon Reservoir in Summit County, according to local officials.Jason Michael Wichter, 32, of Copper Mountain, died Friday night when his snowmobile plunged into Twin Lakes as he was riding on the lake surface, according to the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.Wichter was riding in a bay near a power plant, and there was “a substantial amount of open water” in the area, said Summit County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Cale Osborn. Osborn is in charge of the Summit County Water Rescue Team, whose divers responded to the Twin Lakes incident.Dillon Reservoir – on which snowmobiling is not permitted – does have spring flow into it, which can affect ice thickness, but once it’s frozen for the season, it’s typically safe for recreators, Osborn said.”I don’t want to say it’s always safe because that’s inappropriate,” Osborn said. “It’s a very travel-at-your-own-risk and know-what-you’re-doing kind of thing.”Osborn said that with the exception of the bay where Wichter’s sled submerged, the ice on Twin Lakes is usually as solid as that of Dillon Reservoir.Most of the calls the Summit County Water Rescue Team responds to in the winter are along the lines of folks driving off the road and into rivers, as opposed to emergencies on Dillon Reservoir, said team leader Cris Bezinque.”Our ice forms pretty fast and it gets pretty thick,” Bezinque said. But, Bezinque said that the ice conditions can change quickly, especially in the midst of a warm weather cycle.During the winter months, Dillon Reservoir sees its fair share of Nordic skiers, snowshoers, kiteboarders and ice fishermen, which are all activities allowed by reservoir owner Denver Water, along with any other non-commercial, non-motorized sport, said Brad Eckert, a Summit County Open Space and Trails resource specialist, who provides county staff support to the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee.All motorized sports, including snowmobiling, are prohibited on the reservoir, Eckert said. In the past there has been some confusion as to motorized use on the ice because some old signs around the reservoir suggested that it was open, while the Denver Water website says motorized use is not allowed.Eckert said the committee is in the process of revising its entire sign program and in the meantime, has updated the older signs.Eckert suggested that winter recreators shouldn’t venture farther out on the reservoir’s icy surface than the distance they’re comfortable walking back to avoid getting stranded.Also, from his experience, places where warmer water flows into the reservoir, like the Blue River and Snake River inlets, can be more susceptible to thinner ice than other spots, and should be treated carefully.People should always avoid the area around the Glory Hole, Eckert said.If you recreate on the ice during the winter: Don’t go out alone Keep some space between individuals when traveling on the ice Tell someone where you’re going, just as if you were going hiking in the backcountry If you see wet cracks, or water on top of the ice, stay away. source: Cris Bezinque, head of Summit County Water Rescue Team Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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