Vail Pass Recreation Area sees parking full on weekdays |

Vail Pass Recreation Area sees parking full on weekdays

Forest Service hopes to begin grooming after weekend snow

A snowmobile is pictured at an avalanche awareness event on Vail Pass on Feb. 29.
Photo by Liz Copan / Summit Daily archives

The U.S. Forest Service hopes to begin grooming backcountry trails in the Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area after this weekend’s storms.

“Fingers crossed we can start this weekend,” said Sam Massman, the Forest Service’s acting deputy Dillon ranger.

Massman said it’s still too early for the Forest Service to tell how busy the popular Vail Pass Winter Recreation Area will be this winter. With its 50 miles of groomed trails and road and its ease of access just off Interstate 70 at the top of Vail Pass, the recreation area seems poised to see an uptick in traffic this winter due to capacity limits at nearby ski areas.

The area already has seen its parking lots fill up during midweek days, Massman said. That’s something the area has not always seen before grooming begins for the season, he said.

“This year, it’s hard to say, because the snow has been so low, but we are still seeing the parking lot fill even during weekdays, even without enough snow to groom the trails yet,” Massman said.

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In recent years, Massman said the Forest Service has seen users at the area increase and said Vail Pass sees up to 70,000 visitors per year. Massman added that the Forest Service typically sells about 500-600 season passes and sold more than 38,000 day-use passes last year. Pass sales are not capped. He also said the Forest Service permitted about 20 guides and outfitters in the area this winter.

Massman said the bulk of traffic in the area is hybrid users who use motorized vehicles such as snowmobiles to access backcountry skiing and riding. He said the area’s parking lots — one for nonmotorized users and one for motorized users — fill up by 9:30 a.m. during peak season.

“At that point, we have to close the parking lot and turn people away,” Massman said. “So we are encouraging people to have a Plan B. Plan ahead to not show up at the busiest times, like weekend mornings and holiday mornings.”

As for current snow coverage from Vail Pass down to Camp Hale, Massman said some southern aspects have lost most of the snow coverage while other aspects have held snow cover more.

“It will really depend on how this storm plays out,” he said.

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