Kebler Pass — Making Sled Skiers Look Bad Worldwide

Post by blogger | May 27, 2009      

How trashed do you allow your land to get? Ask that to the USFS and private land owners up above Crested Butte, on the Kebler Pass road. We drove over there last weekend, and I was appalled at the snowmobile graveyard we drove through a few miles above the ‘Butte. We saw abandoned sleds in the creek, in the bushes, over by the forest — everywhere. The place looked like a mountain version of an ATV war zone.

The abandoned sled pictured below was conveniently missing its registration tag, but the tow rope gives it away as a skier or rider tow rig. Come on folks! Leaving your sled in the creek, oozing who knows what from the chain case and fuel tank!? No wonder the anti-mechanized folks want to shut it down.

Sled in Creek

Scenic Colorado.

Comments? Anyone know who owns this sled (grin)?


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84 Responses to “Kebler Pass — Making Sled Skiers Look Bad Worldwide”

  1. Tucker May 27th, 2009 9:18 am

    You must have a mighty rich bunch of backcountry skiiers that can afford to abandon equipment like that…

  2. Jeff Stephens May 27th, 2009 9:40 am


    Props for your post, as it is the first (by you) that I have ever read that was even slightly critical of rampant backcountry vehicle use. It demonstrates that you do have the capacity to see two sides to this issue, which you haven’t really done in the past. As the main advocate I know of for snowmobile approaches, it is nice to see moderation on your part.

    I feel really bad for the unfortunate owner of this machine.

  3. Randonnee May 27th, 2009 9:59 am

    Perhaps a reasonable USFS control would be to allow snowmobiles off of roads or ATV trails only if to travel on a Designated area. Along with that concept, allow that travel only if posted signs are present stating that off road snowmobile travel is allowed in that area. It seems unreasonable that snowmobiles are so uncontrolled, lawfully allowed to range over most of the Forest unlike other motor vehicles. The negative effects of such unregulated use could be the widespread prohibition of snowmobile use- something more likely under the current Gov’t regime.

    As some may know, I own and use snowmobiles mostly on roads to approach ski touring terrain. My view, as above, is that more middle-ground regulation may be advised to head off knee-jerk, swinging regulation as has occurred in the past in regard to USFS resource management.

  4. Randonnee May 27th, 2009 10:02 am

    Cars and other trash are likewise left abandoned on Public Lands as well, all too commonly. Some snowmobilers who abandoned their rigs are not the only jerks using Public Land.

  5. Dave N. May 27th, 2009 10:57 am

    This being my first real year using mechanized access to my favorite terrain I too was amazed at the amount of “carnage” left behind in some of the more remote zones. It seemed like, to me, it was sort of a right of passage to thump your chest and exclaim how much “carnage” you had, or left behind, on any certain day. It seems like the throwaway consumerism habits of the babyboomer generation is being practiced to excess. Basically taking the worst habits of our metropolized areas and bringing them to the backcountry. Maybe a mandatory “leave no tracks” course for all visitors should be implemented. Too bad because it does ruin it for the rest of us.

  6. Lou May 27th, 2009 11:49 am

    Jeff, we had a big thread a while ago and I was plenty critical of things such as illegal sledding. I’m mostly bummed about this stuff because the reaction from the powers is frequently the “punish many for the deeds of a few” approach, as in closing access because a few snowmobilers abuse it and pass over into legal Wilderness. But I don’t like littering any more than anyone else.

    I’ve actually got an activist plan for next winter to nix some of that stuff around here. It involves using a Spot Messsenger to send an instant email to the USFS contact when witnessing illegal sledding. Sort of a poor man’s sat phone solution. I’m going proactive on this because I’m feeling some of our best mechanized access is in danger of being cut off because outlaw sledders use it to pound legal Wilderness. For those around here in the know, I’m talking specifically about the Pearl Pass Road.

    Instead of whining about baddie sledders (as I did in this post, grin), or talking about how to vandalize their property, I’m actually gonna try something legal and possibly effective. What a concept, eh?

  7. Jeff May 27th, 2009 11:49 am

    Giving my experience with all the rich, trust funders in the Butte, this seems par for the course. Just leave it in the creek, wait for the next check in the mail and go buy another…at the same time keep livin’ your core dirtbag lifestyle pretending you’re just getting by like the rest of us. I’m pretty sure I have the owner of this sled pegged…

  8. David May 27th, 2009 11:57 am

    Good subject for a post. We’ve all lost things in the backcountry, but leaving a sled in a creek is bit worse than having a wrapper fly away in a wind gust.

    I came across another abandoned sled here in Tahoe last weekend. Luckily it wasn’t directly in a creek like yours, but it was fairly close. The critters had shredded the foam seat in all directions. It was pretty sad to see in the forest.

    Thanks for the reminder to hike back up there with a plastic bag to try to clean up the carnage and contact the FS about organizing a removal.

    As an aside, the Avi death statistics for this season are dominated by snowmobilers. There is a lot of work to be done to improve the biler culture in terms of basic environmental and personal responsibility.

  9. Dan May 27th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Re: Ditched sled junk: Slobs are everywhere. Ever notice our highways? One solution would be to make it easy (read low cost) to get rid of junk sleds, autos, washing machines, fridges, etc. One really notices the junk in wooded areas along local roads while road biking in late winter/early spring. Here in Washington (Bellingham) it is a bit pricey to get rid of these types of unwanted items. Because it is expensive for State and local government employees to remove and dispose of this type of junk, It might be less costly for the State and County (read taxpayers) if disposal fees were subsidized by all of us and steep fines levied on violaters (steep enough to make it worthwhile to enforce).

    Illegal sledding may not be as rampant here on the west (wet) side of the Cascades as it may be on the east side or in CO., but I see it every time we ski Mt. Baker. Sleds are not permitted above 8000 feet, but some even summit (pretty bold sleders even if they are assholes). I have to admit that the illegal sleders have never really had a negative impact on our skiing Baker in June, but it still bugs me. Complaints to the USFS get nowhere because they don’t have funding for enforcement of minor violations like dealing with a few yahoo sleders. One can only hope that a few of them get their lumps in a crevasse.

  10. Scott May 27th, 2009 1:32 pm

    This kinda of thing is sickening. As a previous owner of a sled I had to leave the piece of junk for several months in the mountains (in a legal area to sled). I wrecked the thing in a blizzard and ended up skiing out. I knew there was a major storm coming in so I flagged the location and used the tow rope to secure it a tree out of site and out of the way from anyone else. I went back in the spring with a come-a-long and 2 more sleds, hauled it back to the road and drug it home.

    I hope this is the case, sh** happens. If this is a case of someone just leaving it (I assume the case with tags taken off) I hope this person gets called out publicly.

    Remember the Unsers in SW colorado/NM they got caught in the wilderness and paid hefty for getting their broken machine recovered.

    I have no qualms with LEGAL sled skiing, but dont do it anymore as I’d rather spend 7,000 on dynafits and plane tickets, and I am a horrible mechanic….


  11. Tim M. May 27th, 2009 1:54 pm

    How many sleds are we talking about? Seems like a reasonable detail to include if the overall impression is “war zone.”

    Is there another explanation perhaps as well — abandoned vs. delayed retrieval? Seems like something worth looking into, but then again rushing to judgment is easier and more likely to incite further rushed judgments…

  12. Dostie May 27th, 2009 2:10 pm

    Although I’m not opposed to ‘biles (in theory), nor am I enamored with them (in practice). My most common comment on sleds this past year has been that I’m just jealous that I can’t afford one for myself so I can use ’em to access stuff that requires more time than I have.

    Looks like I just need to keep an eye out for an abandoned rig that I’m willing to repair. Seems like the low budget way to go, and I’d be helping clean up the junk left by someone else.

  13. Lou May 27th, 2009 3:10 pm

    Let me tell you, judgment or not, the scene up there was a junk show. You should have seen the PBR cans spread around, and other trash. I didn’t count the scattered snowmobiles. Enough to be ugly, that’s all I need to say. It’s supposed to be a beautiful place that’s the gateway to Crested Butte, not a junkyard.

  14. Brian Litz May 27th, 2009 4:23 pm

    As Lou knows I am basically a complete snowmobile ignoramus. Lou mentioned that the registration tags were gone. Do snowmobiles have a “VIN” number? Can the owner be tracked via this VIN number? I see no difference between people abandoning a car, truck, or snowmobile on our public lands, on the side of the road, wherever. Litter is litter. The owners—if they can be tracked–should be fined and charged for the removal.

    Is it really that common for people to just discard these snowmobiles? Do you think the intent was/is to retrieve them in the summer? Why are they abandoned? Mechanical failure? Just plain stuck in the snow? This is all new to me and a bit shocking.

    The snowmobile pictured looked like a relatively nice, new machine …. are they up for grabs? Can new keys be made? Can they be retrieved, cleaned up and sold? I’d be all over it!!!

  15. Lou May 27th, 2009 4:48 pm

    Brian, it’s actually somewhat common for folks to permanently abandon worn out sleds, especially when the motor blows up away from the trailhead, or they barely make it back. Sometimes they do indeed retrieve them later (some of the ones we saw were probably in that category, but should have been taken away weeks ago). I’ve seen truly abandoned ones and also heard of many that USFS and others have had to clean up. The Kebler Pass winter trailhead used to have quite a few abandoned sleds once it melted out in the spring, till there was more effort made to prevent it and clean up quickly.

    Not sure if the VIN or serial number is part of the registration. I looked for mine just now but I buried the papers in some file somewhere and can’t find them quickly. Some sleds never get registered, just used for short distance tow-in and never trailered, and the owner just takes the risk of getting caught without a sticker. I saw several up Castle Creek this winter that didn’t have stickers.

  16. Jay J May 27th, 2009 7:43 pm

    To Lou and ALL the others who’ve posted here,
    Thanks for consistent and polite discussion of a serious problem, that is ever growing. Down here in the SE Wyoming – Snowy Range, we NOT only have illegal sledders doing all the usual illegal things, BUT come Spring and mud season – especially in the sub-alpine to alpine zones; areas that have very little tolerance for heavy impact (above 10,000 ft.) WE have a group of Mud Bogger Sledders and they are followed by Mud Bogger BIG Truck people – who see the previous tracks and say they found a Used zone! BOTH groups will Rip up the alpine meadows and leave them incredibly TRASHED!
    I am happy say that once in a while, these folks get caught by USFS Lawenforcement, vehicles impounded, ticketed and the Local judge has NO problem with high fines, repair fees to the land and impound fees that can break these folks. The problem isn’t impossible to fight, but difficult ; Let’s ALL fight these JERKS!!

  17. LB May 27th, 2009 10:25 pm

    Agree with thoughts above. The sled’s VIN is on the $30.25 registration which can be bought by any yahoo who has the means to tow it and gas it. As mentioned, the sleds are often not registered (changing hands over the seasons like the bunk rooms in any ski town). But the real oversight seems to be the County not communicating the blatant carnage in the creek adjacent to their road to the FS before they open the backdoor to town. Welcome to Paradise people of Paonia and beyond. Enjoy the pool before it cesses up.

    It also says a lot about a very small group of folks ‘livin the life’ in CB.

    Spot messangers have, what 3 communications? “Safe”, “Help”, and “Breakin the Law!” I like it.

    If the picture above is where i think it is, i’d be curious how the IBG proposal would change the character of the parking/use from the anthracite/ruby portal, but maybe that is a topic for another day.

  18. Lou May 28th, 2009 5:33 am

    LB, the Spot “Ok” message can be set to email any message you want. The idea is to pre-arrange with USFS law enforcement dispatch that they’d receive such messages, it would be up to the law rangers to act or not. I hate to go that far as I’m of the libertarian persuasion and don’t like the idea of heavy handed police action, but sometimes it’s a necessary evil and it appears to be so in the case of snowmobile trespass, as these guys just don’t seem to be able to regulate themselves to any significant degree.

    Please be aware I’m talking about illegal sledding in Wilderness, not the political nit picking of dividing up multi-use land for specific uses, which I tend to be against in most areas, though sometimes I see the need for that as well.

    What’s sad and scary is that the poachers will just go somewhere else once an access route is closed due to their deeds, while the rest of us suffer when our access is cut off.

  19. Russ May 28th, 2009 6:20 am

    This is happening in Southern Oregon Cascades also. There is an abandaned snowmobile on the side of Brown Mountain, it would take a helicopter to get it out. This is on forest service land in a place that in the summertime no motorized vehicles are allowed. I don’t understand why they are allowed up there in the winter. I would say that if you can’t take the time to access a backcountry ski spot on foot then don’t go there. Just leave it alone.

  20. Randonnee May 28th, 2009 8:08 am

    What an excellent collection of comments from all over the west! This is not another snowmobile-hating elitist thread, this is a collection of comments about experiences and observations by sober individuals. Perhaps this could be a start of a significant campaign of contacting USFS about this problem. As I said above, snowmobiles allowed on roads only except for specifically-Designated off road areas- similar to other motorized use. Hint, Lou, you could facilitate this significant campaign for reasonable USFS Regulation, not prohibition, of snowmobile use?

  21. Pete Sowar May 28th, 2009 8:37 am

    It’s ugly and inappropriate, but it is temporary. These sleds are not abandoned, they just haven’t been picked up for the summer yet. The county give them to a certain date (don’t know when that is, pretty soon here) to pick them up or they get towed.

    When the owner left that snowmobile at the end of the season it wasn’t in a river. It was on ten feet of snow.

    And trust me, that is not a trust funders sled.

    Easy way to fix the junk yard problem is to have the county mandate an earlier pickup, like when it’s still all snow. As for the beer cans, what a bunch of losers.

  22. steve pulford May 28th, 2009 8:47 am

    Blame two stroke technology, not the trust funders:)

  23. Hans May 28th, 2009 9:34 am

    Seriously, any kind of massive littering like that whether done by the trust funders or whatever in a beautiful alpine zone is seriously criminal. And I’m sure the folks that live in CB that didn’t dump the sleds there feel awesome about having their tax dollars pay for those sleds to go get picked up. I’m not about cutting access off but frankly if I’m ever out in the wilds and I see someone drop a beer can? Generally, they’re in for an earful at the very least. We’re all backcountry skiers for a reason, and for the most part is because we appreciate being away from other people and the trash and noise that us as a people create. So it should be upon us to make sure that we have places like that that we can still go to.

  24. Jeff Stephens May 28th, 2009 10:54 am

    The Colorado Snowmobile Association ( should create a fund to pay for the removal of these abandoned sleds. The Snowmobile Superfund. They spend plenty lobbying for access on behalf of snowmobiles, but they probably aren’t quite as concerned about paying for the consequences of this mission. This is not a cost that should be distributed to taxpayers or backcountry advocates, but should be included in the mandate of groups that advocate for responsible snowmobiling.

    From the Colorado Snowmobile Association’s website:
    “In addition, the administration of CSA works closely with the United State Forest Service and BLM on access issues. Meetings with local, state and regional managers are held throughout the year to assure a voice for snowmobiles on public lands. Each year ACSA sponsors the DC Fly-In, an opportunity for all of the state associations including Colorado to meet with their congressional legislation and speak about what is important in their states in regards to winter recreation.

    To help facilitate CSA’s presence and effectiveness in access issues a Right To Ride Fund was established in the early 90’s. Donations to this fund are used exclusively to forward the cause of access to public lands. Although no one really wants to enter a legal battle, this fund will help ensure CSA’s ability to enter a legal fray when necessary to protect our sport.”

    How about the USFS mandate that part of the Right to Ride Fund be dedicated to cleanup and removal of abandoned machines on public land? Seems like an easy compromise to negotiate.

  25. Jeff Stephens May 28th, 2009 10:59 am


    It would be pretty easy for all of us to snap photos of snowmobile litter, come home and upload them to a collaborative online map (Google Maps, etc), especially if you use a GPS. But there are online tools to manually place photos onto maps. This would effectively begin to create a geographic database of evidence of snowmobile abuse. It would be online for anyone to view, and would be quite compelling for persuading the USFS to be a little stronger on this.

  26. Frank Konsella May 28th, 2009 12:00 pm

    Just to add to what Pete said, Kebler has only been open for what, 10 days? A lot of the sleds at Kebler are parked there throughout the season by owners who do not have a truck or trailer, so the sleds that are left are probably just waiting for their owners to find a way to move them, especially if they are dead sleds. Some of the sleds up at the ‘Y” may still be in use by Irwin homeowners, as well. (I’m not sure if everything is open and plowed up there by now). Every year there might be one or two left that the county has to pick up, which is a bummer, but…

    Beer cans… like Pete said “Losers”

  27. Dave Field May 28th, 2009 12:14 pm

    I would be curious to see what the salvage laws are. If the machine is abandoned for a certain time on public land does it become up for grabs? If that were the case, perhaps there’s a business opportunity for somebody as a sled Repo Man? You sure can’t leave a stuck or broken down car on the highway for an extended time and expect it to remain there.

  28. Lou May 28th, 2009 1:54 pm

    Frank and all, regarding sled retrieval, please correct me if I’m wrong: Snowmobiles are the only ATV that’s allowed off designated roads and ATV trails in most parts of White River National Forest, provided the snowmobile is used ON SNOW. Thus, any snowmobiles that are left on USFS land after the snow melts are automatically illegal, and retrieving them is also illegal unless it is done perhaps with a hovering helicopter.

    That said, I’m perfectly aware that many of the sleds parked on the Kebler road are indeed simply on the state or county road right-of-way waiting for a spring pick up. But we saw more going on than that, including sleds that were clearly too far from the ROW, as well as the one in the creek. Speaking of which, 10 feet of snow is no excuse for leaving your sled to melt down into a wetland. Nor is having a busted sled any excuse to throw beer cans around (if that’s what happened.)

    I’m human too, and have made messes and left pieces from carnage here and there over the years, but I’ve always made a big effort to clean up after myself when that sort of thing happens. I just wasn’t getting the feeling that type of effort was being made up Kebler. We should be able to drive one of the most beautiful drives in the state without feeling like we’re shopping for parts in a snowmobile junkyard.

    Am I being elitist?

  29. Randonnee May 28th, 2009 2:06 pm

    Agreed, Lou it seems that one should be responsible to get his sled out of the Forest. My two old cheapo Tundras have been dragged out of the mountains four times since 1989 after big breakdowns. It is alway part of my thought process what to do if it breaks down. As far as I know, anything left 48 hours on USFS lands is litter and I would expect my stuff left that long could be taken.

    Again, I would advocate for snowmobile travel on roads and officially-designated off road riding only, just as for motorcycles or ORVs. Some better control of snowmobiles on USFS land is needed before there is a drastic reaction and prohibition of snowmobile use.

  30. Frank Konsella May 28th, 2009 3:08 pm

    Not saying it’s right by any means, and when I saw the sled in the creek Tuesday morning, it bummed me out as well. There is some private property near the ‘Y’ and I think there were 2 sleds parked there, but that is legit.

    The sleds get moved pretty quickly around this time of year- I bet in a couple of weeks there won’t be any at all. That’s the only point I’ll be making- they do get taken care of, maybe just not soon enough.

  31. Lou May 28th, 2009 3:15 pm

    Frank, yeah, I’d say that other than sleds parked on private land or in legit parking areas, they need to be taken care of fairly quickly, perhaps even withing the “litter” time limit as specified by the USFS and state/county. That would mean some need to be retrieved before the road is opened up for auto traffic. This is only fair. If I left my stalled truck parked, I’d only have a few weeks at best if it was on public land.

    Am aware that those two sleds perched on the small hill are on private land. One wonders however, if they’re there by permission of the land owner… They look odd just perched up there, uncovered, with nothing else around.

  32. Mike Miller May 28th, 2009 6:28 pm

    I’m sorry, perhaps I’ve missed something, but as someone who has never skied with a sled…I can’t sympathize.

    Of course sleds should be banned from areas such as this, that’s a no brainer. Don’t even try to argue otherwise – you’re an advocate of killing wilderness if you take sleds into the backcountry.


  33. Lou May 28th, 2009 7:19 pm

    Um, let’s continue the logic trail on that one.

  34. Bar Barrique May 28th, 2009 9:19 pm

    Mmmm, I live north of the border, and, most of the issues that I have with sleds could be resolved through enforcement of regulations that already exist.


  35. Kevin May 28th, 2009 10:11 pm

    As a true man of nature, Hunter S. Thompson, would have happily removed the sleds from the backcountry and disposed of them on his property!

  36. Kidd May 29th, 2009 8:54 am

    It just goes to show the kind of people moving to the mountains these days, shelfishand no ethics. And its a case of too many people seeing what others are doing, thru the internet, and copying them. If your going to tell everyone about hybrid skiing, ie…sleds towing skiers, then you need to tell them how to hybrid ski with the proper ethics. Because apparently there a moral waiste land out there in teeming suburban America.

  37. telejet9 May 29th, 2009 9:39 am

    One could pick up a cheap sled if there is no tags on it. If the rightful owners aren’t willing to pick them up, then they should be free game. It would only take replacing the ignition system and a tune up for most sleds that are deemed “junk”. I grew up in snowmobile country back east and it was amazing how many sledders would throw out sleds because they weren’t running right. I could use a “new” sled considering I don’t have one! Maybe I’ll take a salvage drive.

  38. telejet9 May 29th, 2009 10:38 am

    Lou, where exactly would one find these sleds? How many miles up from Crested Butte? I could potentially pick one up this weekend and get it out of the wilderness. It could be a tinker project before next winter.

  39. Lou May 29th, 2009 12:29 pm

    Tele, the problem is there is no way of knowing what’s abandoned or just stored, nor what type of land it is on (private or public). If you want a funky old sled, look for one that runs but needs work that’s for sale during summer, great deals to be had that way. Ones that are truly abandoned are usually abandoned for a reason.

  40. Sean May 30th, 2009 11:03 am

    “It just goes to show the kind of people moving to the mountains these days, shelfishand no ethics.”


    I agree with that although I’d say “selfish” and not “shellfish,” hah!

    What I do not understand is how people advertise and publicly brag about their sled use and then wonder why this stuff happens. “Promoting” something ensures that you encourage the non-thinking selfish humans to engage in that promoted thing. Selfish people in America… goes without saying, it’s a hallmark of our culture. Fad-following selfish people who latch onto the newest thing culturally — which, for some reason in the decade 2000-2010, is “mountain lifestyle” — they’re going to ruin the mountains.

    I do not understand the short-sighted perspectives that inform some of Lou’s and other commenters’ apologies for sledding, or for promoting backcountry travel to such an aggressive extent. Apparently most of you who do such things cannot see the long-term impacts of your promotional work.

    I wish you’d all stop and think a bit before you promoted and popularized and bragged about your backcountry adventures and expensive toys. You don’t even see what you’re doing. It’s sad.

  41. Lou May 30th, 2009 3:29 pm

    Yep, we should all stay out of the hills, and if we do go keep it secret, that way when they mine and log the mountains to death, it won’t bother hardly anyone. Sounds like a plan. But not my plan.

    I’m a backcountry recreation advocate. I love it and I’ll share about it as much as humanly possible. Call it bragging if you want. Call it selfish if you want. But Sean, if you take such a broad definition of selfish, is not your view selfish as well? Yeah, all you pesky other guys stay out of there, especially you snowmobilers, and Lou, quit talking about it, I want it and you’re harshing my groove.

    In my view, we’ll deal with recreation’s problems as they come up, such as abandoned sleds… On the whole, backcountry recreation causes people to value the land in good ways. Without backcountry recreation what do we end up with? We’d be back to the days when the backcountry’s only value was for resource extraction — a way more “selfish” use than running a few snowmobiles over the snow for a few months a year — or trudging around on skis — or blogging about it all as a job that puts food on the table.

    Or are you suggesting that humanity somehow maintains an almost mystical respect for the backcountry, without any use of the land to give it concrete value? Dream on. A certain elite strata of modern civilization might be able to play at that philosophy for a time, but it is not sustainable. If everyone lives in cities and gets their fun and value from city stuff, all most people are going to want from the backcountry are resources to keep their city going.

    As for all us people that are going to “ruin the mountains.” Good luck predicting the future. You might examine a few places that were ruined back during the silver boom in Colorado. They’re much nicer now, even though a bunch of nearby people are living the supposedly ruinous mountain lifestyle. What’s more, people have been living the modern mountain lifestyle in places like here since at least the influx of skiers in the late 1940s. They’ve had plenty of time to ruin the mountains. As far as I could tell today up in the Sawatch, the mountains we were in looked and skied exactly like they would have fifty years ago, that is unless seeing a few extra souls flitting about is your definition of ruin. Also, there was NO legal Wilderness back fifty years ago. Now we have tons of it. Pretty good long term impact if you ask me (even though I’m not a fan of ever more more more legal Wilderness, I like what we have.)

    More, around 100 years ago in the exact same place we were today, we would have been looking at a number of big ugly mines that were using ZERO environmental protection of any sort, and during our trip back home we would have traveled through several communities containing thousands of people heating with coal and wood, denuding nearby mountains of their trees and producing a haze of choking smog. And that’s not even counting the Aspen smelter.

    And yeah, recreation can indeed get out of hand. Look at the Utah Wasatch. But all that can be dealt with as we progress our public land management systems. We don’t have to keep it secret to keep it good.

    As for motivation, a person could easily share about their adventures in a spirit of generosity rather than selfishness. Or perhaps since they’re human, they might do so with a mixture of both emotions? To call it all selfish is perhaps selfish in its own right, or at least narrow minded.

    And nope, I’m not going to quit blogging. Though you might want to warn everyone you know to not read as it might give them some really bad ideas — in fact, what we’re doing here is downright backcountry anarchy and should be illegal!

    My view, anyhow…

  42. Kevin May 30th, 2009 3:53 pm

    Lou, as someone who spends five days a week in a suit I applaud your work! Your site is my connection to my past as a ski bum ( yea, i love the phrase even though I made a decent living for four years in the mountains) . More importantly, your site helps me connect to my backcountry skiing roots that do not receive as much attention these days due to commitments to family, work and lift served skiing. As for our friend Sean, I hope he doesn’t drive a car or ride a bike or live in a house that contains any wood, metals mined from the ground or glass as that would put him in a category right up there with you evil backcountry sledders! I for one will still jump on the back of a sled to ski a righteous line and God forbid jump in a helicopter periodically to ski expensive lines while enjoying the beauty that I don’t have the time to enjoy as much as I did in my twenties while slogging up the hills in Summit County without combustion’s help. Ride on Lou!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  43. Randonnee May 30th, 2009 6:47 pm

    Folks that I take into the mountains feels that their life is greatly enriched, as is my own. Ski touring and snowmobiles gain that rare, fine experience of being in pristine mountains in solitude and enjoying the beauty of nature including our own physical experience. We are much alive in the mountains.

    Critics of snowmobile use often seem to have little to no experience with snowmobiles. Likewise, their weekend-visitor views and knowledge is limited, resulting in less than a fully formed understanding. In objective reality, one use is equal to the other, unless one attaches political considerations. Our society needs to regulate use and solve these problems to ensure balanced access for all. The airing and discussion of conflicts and problems should contribute to understanding and allocation of resources for all citizens.

    Great discussion Lou! Usually these online snowmobile discussions degenerate to flames within minutes…

  44. Logan Johnson May 30th, 2009 7:56 pm

    Great discussion. It is fantastic that both sled and non-sled folks are speaking up.
    FWIW all snowmobile registration is linked to both a VIN, name, phone and current address. However, it is possible to scam a fake VIN (very rare but possible.) If you are cought outside the post-season removal window the fines for removal are very heavy.
    Lou is absolutely right about eyesores and trash, there is no excuse! I also agree that the USFS is a little too leaniant about this kind of stuff, probably due to lack of budget for patrolling these areas.

  45. Dave N. May 31st, 2009 9:11 am

    “mystical respect for the backcountry, without any use of the land to give it concrete value,” bingo Lou! You may have hit the nail on the head. There does appear to be a trend towards total protectionism/isolation by wilderness elitist types who get their arguments bolstered by global warming.

    Even when I run into backcountry crowds–Teton Pass for example–I still enjoy the type of “ruinous” use they advocate. The true shame of it all, in my opinion, is, umpteem years from now, that in some future time all these places will be taken for their resource value again anyways, by the very “armchair conservationist” who need it to keep the cities functioning.

  46. Lou May 31st, 2009 2:16 pm

    Sean is certainly right about self serving selfish human nature. The trick is how do we use that power for good? Getting people out recreating in the outdoors makes them value the outdoors. They get selfish, and don’t want it wrecked. Not perfect, just like capitalism based on self serving human nature is not perfect, but I see no alternative other than some sort of environmental fascism.

    A good example of this is how hunters are working with environmentalists against excessive gas drilling here in Colorado. If the hunters didn’t value their recreation, their powerful voice would be silent. And are they ruining the backcountry? For the most part not, though nothing is perfect, but we do have more elk than almost any time in history.


  47. Bar Barrique May 31st, 2009 10:26 pm

    Well; when I drive the F350 to the trailhead, I am using motorized access, however; there is a reasonable argument that preserving wilderness values, and, reducing stress on wildlife might be a worthwhile idea. In BC, Canada; we have diminishing Caribou herds, and, limiting motorized access is part of the solution. I am not against my friends, and, neighbors enjoying motorized recreation, but, at the same time, there are some issues that transcend motorized versus non motorized use issues.


  48. Snowdog 23 June 1st, 2009 8:33 am

    What’s wrong with responsible use and harsher punishments for offenders? It’s been my experience that the vast majority of backcountry users are responsible, decent people who want to protect their form of recreation. Sadly it’s the very few dickheads that get attention for doing unspeakable things and attract the ire of the uninformed masses, usually through inflammatory media reports. I have to say that my personal preference is to use motorized access as exactly that – ACCESS. Drive/sled/heli in as far as you can then ski. I have limited time these days but still like getting out there away from the resorts. When he’s old enough I’ll teach my son to leave no trace and hope that he’ll still be allowed to enjoy the wild places in person and not just on a TV screen.

  49. Lou June 1st, 2009 8:46 am

    Snowdog, exactly. Also, with harsher punishment and better enforcement, things come to a head quicker and if people don’t like certain restrictions, they can go through legit channels to change things, rather then just poaching. Same goes for mountain biking, or even situations such as closing land to hikers, cyclists, rock climbers or skiers because of wildlife issues. Enforce it, and the access activists have something to work against. Otherwise, it’s just this weird situation of access that’s actually not access. Same with private land issues.

  50. Jeff Stephens June 1st, 2009 10:04 am

    A library is a public place. However, certain uses are not allowed. Is this a problem for some of you? For example, one cannot stage a rock concert there. One is not allowed to disturb other citizens. One is not allowed to smoke, or to urinate in the aisles, or to simply take the books.

    But, according to the logic applied by a few commentors (I can’t name your names or else a nameless editor will censor me, as happens about half the time), I should be able to do any of those things in the library. Because in “objective reality,” “all uses are equal.” And it’s a public place. As a member of the public, it should be up to me to regulate my own behavior at the library, right? I wouldn’t be out to destroy the place. I would just pee on a few books, I would only disturb some people, I would only take a couple books. I just want equal access.

    Now imagine if hundreds or thousands of people act like that at the library, or your church. Then they form a political lobby, they demand access. They want to skateboard through there, they want to play music, they want to solicit you, their desires are many. Some have good intentions, some of them act like jerks. They interrupt the experience of others. They affect the public negatively, although their selfish desires may be fulfilled. And then they have the gumption to whine with no end about how they feel alienated, like they are unfairly locked out of SO MANY public places. They are being persecuted. Their rights to to do as they pleased, regardless of who feels the consequences, are being trampled upon by selfish elitists who act like libraries should be reserved as places of quiet reading and education and churches as places of worship.

    Concept: All uses are NOT equal in all places.

    If you have feet, you have equal access to wilderness. If you were born with a snowmobile instead of legs, then I could understand how you could be pissed.

    It really sucks to read that some commentors and editors feel that wilderness/roadless advocates are the selfish ones. Please educate us about the humanitarian aspect and public benefit of driving your snowmobile as far as possible into the wild, so that you can have a shorter climb. Is that an act of public generosity or what? I should be grateful every time you rev up a remote drainage, for pushing the horizons of civilization, beating back the savage wilds?

    No way. Conserving wilderness is like the epitome of selfLESSness. Snowmobiling, skiing, surfing, etc., now those are 100% self-centered pursuits. Lou warns us of “Environmental fascism” That’s a laugh! More precisely, it’s a massive paranoid delusion.

  51. Lou June 1st, 2009 11:02 am

    No one with WildSnow ever told Jeff not to “name names,” just to please not attack people but rather argue the issues.

    Also, where in this thread are any of us saying all uses, all the land, all the time? Can someone clue me in? Seems like we’ve had some very reasonable comments all down the line.

    As for selfish vs unselfish, you’d have to be a mind reader to know exactly who is working from what motivation. But I’ll guarantee both motivations exist in land use advocacy, on BOTH sides of the issues.

    My main point is that selfishness is a powerful motivator, and rather than paint it as evil we should acknowledge it and work with it. People conserve Wilderness for lots of reasons. Some people do it to make a salary or reap their fund raising grant comission, some do it because they love recreating in it, some do it from a distance because of a mystical attachment.

    The idea is that the bulk of backcountry recreation motivates more conservation, and thus promoting backcountry recreation is at least a neutral force, and quite possibly a positive thing to do in terms of conservation. In other words, when taken to task for writing and communicating about backcountry recreation, that’s my defense. Simple as that.

    In other words, if I felt like what I’ve done as a writer and photographer for the past 30 or so years had any significant negative impact on the backcountry, I’d quit. But I absolutely do not feel this to be the case. Indeed, quite the opposite. As for motivation on my part, most certainly it’s a combination of selflessness (desire to share the bounty) and selfishness (desire for good excuse to go skiing.)

    A good example is the Fourteener Initiative. Way before I wrote my guidebooks for the Fourteeners, the peaks were getting trashed by people using zillions of routes instead of a few dedicated trails. Mine and Gary’s books came out at about the same time that use boomed. I wouldn’t blame the books, though they no doubt contributed. BUT, the increased use actually resulted in more people to participate and value conservation, the Fourteener Initiative was born, and now many of the peaks are in better shape than they’ve been in for years due to dedicated trails and revegitation projects.

    Mining is another example. It’s pretty likely that folks in Crested Butte will be able to keep a big trashy mine from happening there. What motivates most of those folks? Some no doubt simply value pristine land over mines, but many receive a great deal of motivation because of their own selfish desire to recreate in the area and not be looking at a mine, or getting shut out of their favorite terrain. If the Crested Butticians all went back to the city and quit recreating around CB, and they tore out the ski lifts, I’ll bet within 20 years it would be a mining town again. And yes, some of those Butticians use snowmobiles, but they’re not going to let that mine happen over their dead sled!

  52. Mark June 1st, 2009 12:09 pm

    The notion that we’re ruining the planet seems to come up often these days, yet there are any number of evidences that many places once trashed by the likes of extractive industries are in far better shape today than they were forty years ago. Take for instance the area around Kellog, Idaho and the Coeur d’ Alene River. Denuded hills have been successfully reforested and the once neon blue river, polluted with toxic lead, now is clean and used for all manner of recreation including water skiing, swimming, hiking, and even biking on hundreds of miles of bike trails on reclaimed rail lines.

  53. Dave N. June 1st, 2009 12:54 pm

    Good discussion all. Passionate arguments made on multiple facets of the topic. Something to take to the table at the next (insert favorite forest here) travel plan comment period.

  54. BL June 2nd, 2009 9:08 am

    I would love to see what would happen regarding this issue if someone were to collect all those trashed sleds onto a flatbed and dump them in the middle of town in CB at 4 in the am. People scavenging parts, law enforcement looking for VINs, friends calling friends in the wee hours – “Dude, your sled in on main st. – better go get it.”

  55. Lou June 2nd, 2009 9:17 am

    LOL, but they’d have to have a plan to keep the male dogs away, that uncovered seat foam is pretty absorbent.

  56. Darcy June 2nd, 2009 4:02 pm

    HI..I’m new here, looked at Lou’s site after I saw the video of last week’s ski at Geissler w/ Kate Howe, on her blog..
    This IS late, but reading this snowmobile stuff reminded me of what my husband and I saw in JH one April day v about 3-4 years ago, during a late season quickie. (The ski trip kind!) It was horribly torn up slopes, at SK in town, from a last days of snow – type snowmobile fest.. apparently, all comers can compete to see who makes it uphill the farthest, with spikes and all kinds of other sharp stuff attached to the belts.
    The damage was significant, and this occurred on a slope that is repaired after this takes place.
    Haven’t ever seen abandonment of the kind you guys are talking about, but if these bilers are doing this kind of damage ‘legally’, what are they capable of in the backcountry?!

  57. Lou June 2nd, 2009 4:32 pm

    Thanks for the comment Darcy, stop by again!

    From what I’ve seen in Colorado, excessive damage to the bare ground from snomobiles is pretty uncommon. Nonetheless, they’re only allowed off designated routes during snow season with snow cover. Once it’s summer, driving one off road/trail is the same thing as driving an ATV off road/trail, and is illegal in most places on the National Forest.

  58. Frank Konsella June 5th, 2009 9:15 am

    Currently in the local paper…1- a link to this blog entry. 2- An ad letting everyone know that June 12 is the deadline to get their ‘biles out of the area. 3- A “thank-you” from the Gunnison sno-trackers snowmobile club for their sponsors (who help pay to groom the main routes), the main one being the Mt Emmons Moly company mining project. Strangely, the mining company isn’t a main sponsor of the CB Nordic Center 😉

  59. Lou June 5th, 2009 10:35 am

    Yeah, the problem is that a lycra race suit doesn’t work that well for hard rock mining (grin).

  60. Dave N. June 5th, 2009 12:17 pm

    Not that I’m a proponent of the “Championship Hillclimb” held at the King every spring, but, as a past resident and King employee, I can tell you with certainty that the King recovers nicely every year from that event and the damage on Exhibition is in no way reflective of what you might see in the BC. Basically, mother nature engages the old “etch a sketch” and the “impact” on the snow is gone till the next snow/corn cycle. So don’t be alarmed with what you experienced at the King….


  61. Corey June 5th, 2009 10:03 pm


    This one snowmobile was left by an irresponsible owner and as the snow melted it got closer to Coal Creek. It is NO WAY indicative of all snowmobilers. I drive that road every day, and I can assure you that since it never got very far sideways, that there is no possibility that fuel, chaincase oil or any other contaminant left the machine. It probably could be started easily. (even though it is clearly a POS)

    Every year wet get seasonal workers up here, and some of them end up in a lifestyle that leaves them caring about nothing more than the next “Rocky mountain High(literally)”. Hence, there are a few – and not many, but a few snowmobiles left at our trailhead every spring. It sucks, and the County usually ends up disposing of them properly.

    The local snowmobile club will work with the County and USFS to take care of this issue and help be more pro-active in managing something that is really not our responsibility, but where we can help. If I need, I’ll go down and remove that piece of junk myself, I’ll do it. No problem.

    One thing to keep in mind is that the County pours 180,000 gallons of Mag Chloride basically right into coal creek each year (diluted 4:1). And there is a new snowcat skiing outfit going through permitting process. The impact of legitimate snowmoblie use here is very minimal, and dispersed. It works – if we eliminate terrain, increased density will creat user conflicts where there are none.

    Snowmobilers in our area are often skiers too, and we honestly care about the environment and our riding areas. This is not the ATV crowd. We work hard to groom the trails, provide sinage and registration drives in Crested Butte. When skiers or snowmobilers are injured, stuck , or lost we are the first responders and usually overwhelm the authorities with our assistance. We want a good experience for everyone up here, and the results have been no effective history of user conflicts in the Kebler Pass drainage.

    We will continue to work hard to keep it that way.

    I hope this helps, and please know what the snowmobile community is frustrated with ill behaved individuals leaving this garbage; we will do what we can to continue to be pro-active going forward.



  62. Corey June 5th, 2009 10:29 pm

    Oh, and the PBR cans and the orange skeet in the willows, and the USFS sign being shot at were all provided by two rogue pickup trucks that came up to the “Y” when the County was plowing the road and left crap everywhere. I did not approach those yahoos, as they HAD guns. ;-(

    What you probably saw as far as “War Zone” was four or five of the townsite residents snowmobiles parked next to the Y’s temporary parking lot. We had a quick snowmelt this year (very quick), and some of those sleds were left for a week or two in the Y parking lot. They are all gone now, as the owners have reclaimed them. All of those sleds were registered. We have Rambo as our USFS enforcement dude, and if they weren’t he’d pull out his bazoooka and nuke them. At the main parking lot, there were quite a few sleds left, but they were retrieved quickly once the County started to plow the roads.

    One thing I have noticed is lots of tow straps, bungie cords, plastic bottles by the entrance to one of the ski routes just shy of Splains Gulch. This stuff is something we can work with people on. Heck, I saw a television wrapped in a garbage bag left on the side of the road from someone who moved into a rental in Irwin this winter.

    This stuff is a community problem – not just an us vs them thing.


  63. Lou June 6th, 2009 9:27 am

    Community problem, exactly.

  64. Corey June 6th, 2009 3:07 pm

    Checked today – that sled is down in the main parking lot now. Someone moved it, and it is missing it’s clutch belt. There was no sign of any fuel or other leaks.


  65. Lou June 6th, 2009 3:39 pm

    That’s great, but it shouldn’t have been in the creek in the first place… If I’d left my Jeep parked in the creek for three weeks I’d be looking at a fine for sure, what’s different about a snowmobile?

  66. Corey June 6th, 2009 5:47 pm

    I completely agree.

    As I said earlier, who ever abandoned that sled probably didn’t intend to put it near the creek. It was up on a 10′ pile of snow when the County plowed the road(parked), as the snow melted we watched it slowly recede towards the river bank. IT NEVER MADE IT INTO THE CREEK!! That doesn’t justify it’s abandonment, but let’s be fair to the creep who left it there (wow, that sounds odd).

    This is an un-registered vehicle. There’s no way to track it other than through social engineering, and I doubt any of the enforcement agencies is that interested. There was a red Tahoe with Texas plates that spend the winter at the bottom of Schofield Pass a few years ago – near Devil’s Punch bowl. By spring, it was pummeled. Never made the paper, and we didn’t talk about banning Texans with their SUV’s. Go figure.

    For the record: There is a silver Subaru and a small Airstream camper that are at the “Y” that were there all winter. I suspect there are no plans to remove them, and there certainly is not a septic system there. They appear abandoned in a popular camping spot. There is an old hand-made wooden bridge that has now fallen directly into Coal Creek without any concern, and there was a bundle of about 12 kids colored balloons stuck in a tree today.


  67. Lou June 6th, 2009 6:34 pm

    Cory, I think I hear what you’re trying to say, but it also sounds like you’re saying it’s kind of okay to abandon junk in the backcountry, and what happens with that junk later is not our fault or responsibility if we didn’t know what was going to happen with our junk. In other words, I could abandon a car battery by a creek on the snow, then later when the snow melted and the battery leached, it wouldn’t be my fault or responsibility? If you’re not saying that, what exactly are you saying when you refer to the lack of intent and the 10′ of snow? Intent does not make one immune from the consequences of one’s actions. It might and often does mitigate the punishment, but doesn’t get you off scott free. For example, say I hit a bicyclist while driving my car. I certainly didn’t intend it, but the Hwy Patrol isn’t going to let me off the hook because I didn’t intend to hit them…

    What is more, two or three or a dozen wrongs don’t make a right. I really don’t care how much other junk is up there in terms of whether leaving that sled was bad or ok (other than being surprised all involved let it get so junky). An unregistered snowmobile dumped in a wetland in the scenic entry to Crested Butte caught my attention, that’s what I blogged about, and so on…

  68. Corey June 6th, 2009 9:54 pm

    Lou – your post/blog makes a great point of a small, isolated, brief tragedy. However I feel the blog over-states your well intended point. I tried to add some context that all people living and recreating up on Kebler are NOT goons or trustas. We’re not. There is no “Snowmobile Graveyard!”

    This sled, it’s abandonment, and the location it ended up in are terrible. There is no quarrel there. I was just trying to add the point that while tragic, I’m sure that the seasonal-stoner dude that owns it is most likely long gone to another ski area for summer work, and when that fellow left, I bet that the sled was on the embankment waiting to be placed on a trailer and taken away or sold since it was the end of the season.

    This is in NO WAY an excuse. This end result is simply unacceptable.

    We don’t park our trash in Coal Creek – check with CCWC, and you’ll see a very active group of locals keeping Coal Creek in great condition. We have removed everything from car batteries to mining equipment and a lot of other refuse over the years that is in no way related to the motorized vs. non-motorized rivalry you seem to introducing here. The annual CCWC report tells the results with the cleanest water you can imagine (save some heavy metals from the mine).

    But to to say that it was “in Coal Creek”, and spewing fuel and chain case oil is a bit of a lark. Neither are true. Then to go on and associate the folks who live and recreate in our area with an “ATV War Zone” , while making great internet fodder, is a bit of an over-statement. The sleds that you saw sitting at the Y were owned by people living in the townsite. Most are used daily. The sleds that you saw (3 of them) at the base of the Axtel Loop were owned by sub-contractors who ride up to the Floresta Lodge daily for work. The sleds at the main parking lot were owned by people in town and were removed in a timely fashion.

    Out of the 100+ snowmobiles owned, operated and stored on public lands(County and USFS) on a weekly by locals in the area throughout the winter, you have identified ONE of the TWO that were truly abandoned by some numb-nutz seasonal stoner. As I said, there is NO excuse for this isolated incident, but you clearly don’t have much of a handle on how well (albeit imperfect) our area operates.

    Likewise, the PBR cans, skeet, bungie cords, clutch belts at the skier drop offs are disappointing, but no one is running around wanting to ban skiers or hunters! ($$$$)

    The area is overall managed very well, and while sensational this incident pails compared to other “environmental” tragedies that you are probably not aware of in the area.



  69. Lou June 7th, 2009 6:38 am

    Cory, it looked like a disaster zone to me. So that’s what I blogged about. I wasn’t doing investigative reporting for the Wall Street Journal that day (grin). In a place as beautiful as Kebler, first impressions are THE impression. Indeed, the viewscape is a resource like any other, and compromising it is just as wrong as polluting a creek. As a local I can see why your’e defending the state of affairs up there, and that’s fine. But I’d write the same blog post again if I saw what I saw.

    Also, where did I say the sled was “in Coal Creek” ? Please don’t misquote people here. The sled was in the creek, just like I said. It wasn’t in the main channel, but it was in a flowing waterway just feet from the main channel, the difference is ridiculous hair splitting when it comes to the point I was trying to make. Also, in my experience, all sleds that old and thrashed ooze something from somewhere, so I stand by that as being a fair rhetorical statement.

  70. Corey June 7th, 2009 8:08 am

    Wow. Stunning bias.

    I’m not mindlessly defending an “ATV War Zone.”

    You’re making some very broad, clearly inaccurate assumptions to get a sensational impact. Unfortunately, you’re not exactly oozing the truth, facts or much useful other than innuendo at this point, so I’m going to cease arguing with you. I bet you just passed by and wrote a blog article, probably didn’t even stop to pull the sled back off the bank.

    Here is your quote exactly: <>
    If you don’t know what “Coal Creek” is, maybe you can do a little more research in the future before throwing arrows.

    Your goals are clear – it’s a hit job.
    I’ve made my points.

    Off to wax my skis for a day on Mt.Owen.
    Sun is out.


  71. Corey June 7th, 2009 8:10 am

    Quote: “Leaving your sled in the creek…”

  72. Corey June 7th, 2009 9:38 am

    Maybe we should simply impose a registration and fee system on Sled-skiers, and non-motorized users since they clearly have the most “impact” and they don’t pay any registration fees today anyways while using our grooming services

    Eventually we can simply divide up the public lands, and give the hybrids the % of lands that their registrations contribute to, same with skiers. Pay to play. After all it is the SnoTrackers who end up grooming the trails, cleaning up the land and trailhead from everybody’s crap in the spring (yes, including sled-SKIERS) , providing signs and markers for safe passage when visibility is nil, working with the County for parkign lot maintenance, and the USFS for bathroom facilities, etc…

    If you look at the places where snowmobilers congregate, vs the places where sleds are left mid-morning for people skinning up there IS a difference in the amount of food trash and other debris left. The sled-SKIERS leave more trash in concentrated places.

    If you look at the corner of the parking lot where the skiers typically park, it’s trashed – Luna bar wrappers and Power-Aid-of-the day bottles. If you walk around the other areas where sled trailers are, pretty much nada.

    Snowmobiles leave no wax in the snowpack, skiers DO.
    Snowmobiles travel largely on predictable routes, skiers- everywhere.

    I haven’t seen an organized group of sled-skiers holding registration and membership drives lately?

    Should we ban sled-SKIERS?! They’re clearly abusing our waterways!

    Is this constructive thinking? Of course not.

    Fact is that the snowmobile in question was bought by an irresponsible SKIER, left to fall into the bank of Coal Creek by an irresponsible SKIER, and and moved back to the trailhead by level-headed SNOWMOBILERS.

    No god-fearing snowmobiler would have done this.
    Only one of those smelly, unshowered, 1/2 stoned, glassy-eyed SKIERS would have done this.

    You know, the ones that make the smoke shacks at the ski area below Hot Rocks. The ones that built the pirate hut up Elk Creek…..

    We’re not talking a bunch of wine-drinking, suit donning academics that gingerly make their way up to the mountains on Friday night in their Priuses to tiptoe around on new fallen blankets of snow with their cameras in hand. These are boarderline unemployed, transients with major habits and legal problems.

    Now, tell me who’s the responsible one in the crowd.
    Surprisingly, it’s not the “muscle powered” gentlemen we see infiltrating our backcountry.


    This is a facetious example.^^^^^^
    My point here is that stereotypes and finger pointing doesn’t help solve the problem.
    Cooperation does.

  73. Lou June 7th, 2009 10:14 am

    He he, pretty good stuff there Cory. As for me, you’re preaching to the choir on this. Sorrry if my post was construed to be so anti. Like I said, I was just blogging what I saw. If I’d seen some skiers parking in the creek, I probably would have blogged that as well.

    My main agenda with all this, other than simply the enjoyment of writing a blog and travelogue and getting torqued now and then, is that if backcountry user folks (mechanized or not) don’t tow the line it gives more ammo to the people who shut down access. We’ve got what I believe are some borderline situations with that around here, so I’ve decided that even though I own a sled and enjoy using it, I’m going to ramp up my reporting on the scofflaws because it’s my belief they are going to ruin it for everyone. In my opinion Kebler needs to be kept less junky looking. If not, every time an anti-sled shut-it-down keep-those-jerks-out-of-MY-backcountry anti drives through there, it just gives them more inspiration to ramp up their letter writing campaign to the USFS and exert mob rule on the rest of us.

    I’ve done plenty of outlaw stuff in my years, and haven’t always liked the idea of being a tattle tale (still don’t, actually). But things have changed. There are dark forces at work that could really ruin things for backcountry recreation as we know it. Small unseen acts of inconsequential rule breaking are one thing, highly visible stuff that can be used as ammo to shut things down are quite another. Thus, even one sled abandoned like the one I blogged is to me a HUGE thing if it’s next to one of the most storied roads in the state and seen by literally thousands of people.

  74. Dave N. June 7th, 2009 10:38 am

    OK, very quick synopsis of discourse here:

    Wildland access threatened by visual detritus left by semi-motorized recreationalist.

    Wildlands conservation still better served by getting out there, not matter how, as opposed to staying in urban environment and playing video games.

    Wildlands better off left alone by all and should only be appreciated for aesthetic, wildlife, value etc. because of global warming, wildland corridors, resource damage, etc.

    Responsible motorized groups are better stewards of land then sledskier types and shouldn’t have to pay the price i.e. (limited access) imposed as punishment.

    Obviously I’m extremely summarizing here but let’s ignore that for the moment.

    My hope is that such issues as “motorized access” should be treated as “wedge issues” when it comes to wildland health and we shouldn’t waste so much energy on its supposed impact. Personally, I feel the real white elephant in the forest is still big industry such as mining, and resource extraction, and I agree with Lou in that “The idea is that the bulk of backcountry recreation motivates more conservation”. Let’s keep our eyes on the ball folks and not get bogged down with micro analyzing the wedge issues.


  75. Corey June 7th, 2009 10:43 am

    Lou – that last post is one I can 110% agree with.

    Yes – the overall condition of Kebler can be improved, and we (SnoTrackers) are often the ones left to keep the overall condition up as best as we can – regardless of who trashes it – hybrids, sled-skiers, Lodge’s sub-contractors, or snowmobilers – as it is the legitimate motorized crowd that disproportionately pays the price when the anti’s get down on the whole thing over a sensational story such as this.

    There are bad apples, and there are bad crowds.
    It’s best to cull the bad apples from the crowd, then re-assess the situation, IMO.

    If you drove Kebler today, you’d quickly realize that all of the sleds with registrations (except two – one of which is now well storied) have indeed been removed by their owners. The skeet, PBR cans, car and Airstream leave something to be desired.

    We may be doing a work day this summer to remove more metal posts from the wetlands; feel free to join us.

    Ok, now gotta run – Owen awaits!


  76. Lou June 7th, 2009 11:12 am

    Good point Dave N! Divide and conquer is not a dead concept, and one we don’t want to fall prey to.

  77. Bar Barrique June 7th, 2009 10:59 pm

    Thanks to everyone for the interesting discussion, I would agree that the vast majority of sled owners are responsible members of the community, and, that some skiers are litterers. I agree that given scant enforcement resources; fines should be automatic for offenders as it is the only reasonable way to create a deterrent (not a big fan of deterrent sentencing in general, but hopefully they are not going to jail). The real issue seems to be that the “wilderness” is not endless, and, we are overdue in slicing it up into user specific zones, with prescribed rules, and, enforcement regimes. This sounds some somewhat depressing to me as I am living out my fantasy life in an area of the world that is sparsely populated, and, not readily accessible to urban areas, but, never the less, it appears to be the new reality.


  78. Jay August 4th, 2009 9:59 am

    I know I’m a little late on the topic but Corey said it plain and simple:
    There are bad apples and bad crowds.

    I’m a “stoney” snowmoboarder(gasp!!). I also own an ATV and every time I go anywhere, no matter what season I’m constantly picking up trash someone left behind. Its not a matter of who’s using the backcountry for what reason, selfish, selfless or shellfishly. lol. Bad apples are bad apples. They lurk in all crowds, oginizations or sports. Pinning the blame on one particular group will solve nothing. Closing off access will solve nothing. The only thing a closed gate will do is keep the people who actually give a crap out. A closed gate isn’t going to stop the type of person who would abandon a sled anyway.

    Its the same story in non alpine areas such as Dominguez canyon. Before we know it, the only people allowed in will be park rangers patrolling for trespassers. The global warming band-wagon has us spending tax money closing land with trail systems already in place, only to spend more money developing an adjecent area once untouched and deem it as an “ATV park”. I think lou said it well, putting more people in a smaller “designated” area will only make more crowds. With that comes more trash and trashy types.

    The more logical solution in my opinion is keep what we have clean and open while we attempt to edjucate the bad apples as much as we can.

  79. Lou August 4th, 2009 10:10 am

    Never too late for comments Jay! Thanks

  80. Jay August 4th, 2009 11:33 am


    I also liked dave’s comment about a “sled repo man”. Anyone who has ever burried a sled knows how much work it is to get it out and a dead motor or chaincase blowout can be 10 times as much work. As you guys already said, I’m sure alot of this carnage is simply people with no means to recover thier machine at that time.
    I have been looking at buying an old Kristi sno machine for my own selfish needs and had thought alot about a sled recovery or towing type side project. even if it was on a volunteer basis, it would be worth the effort if that meant keeping these areas open to all of us.

  81. Andrew January 4th, 2010 12:29 am

    Stripping all the registration markings off of a sled that died in the backcountry and then abandoning it in a ditch – gawd that story sounds familiar. Now, where did I hear it…?

  82. Shane February 28th, 2010 8:47 pm

    thanks for letting me know they were indeed abandoned Ive seen snowmobiles on the side of the road their years not the same mobiles but newer ones seem to left each winter i think ill just take them away next time..I guess i’ll look for tags first though

  83. Pete August 11th, 2010 11:14 am

    This Is one of the better areas in our country to go shred your sled board or skis and is also one of the gnarliest. I spend a lot of time up there in the winter and summer and am an avid snowmobiler myself. Snowmobiling is not cheap by any means in any way, and I would have to hope that anyone leaving there sleds up there is trying to go retrieve it when it is possible for them. The average backcountry ski bum can’t afford to just abandon sleds the way this blog makes it sound. If you guys writing in this blog really do love to ski and get into the backcountry and also want to clean up the backcountry, go back there with a single place trailer and some winches and get those sleds outta there, spend a few hundred bucks to get the motor running again and now you have a sled of your own to go get out there and shred with!

  84. Lou August 11th, 2010 1:25 pm

    Pete, taking a sled home that looks “abandoned” is a good way to get in trouble for theft!

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