Friday, July 1, 2011

In backcountry, beware of snow, fire risk

Forest Service urges recreationists to ‘know before you go’

Express Staff Writer

The Pioneer Mountains, east of Ketchum and Sun Valley, offer plentiful recreation opportunities but snow remains in the high country.

Headed off the beaten path this holiday weekend? The Forest Service wants to make sure all recreationists are aware of a few key items before they head into the great outdoors.

Despite the recent warm weather, snow is still present in high elevations and in shady areas. Julie Thomas, public affairs officer for the Sawtooth National Forest, said several feet of snow covers roads in some areas and drivers should resist the temptation to "plow through."

"Vehicles can break through the snow's crust and leave travelers stuck," Thomas stated in a press release. "It could get worse the farther you go!"

Cell phone coverage is not available in all areas, and stuck motorists might not be able to reach emergency responders.

Late snowpacks regionwide are affecting recreation sites as well. Kent Fullenbach, public affairs officer for the Salmon-Challis National Forest, said snow still blocks access to Meadow Lake campground south of Leadore and the Bighorn Crags 60 miles west of Salmon.

While all campgrounds in the Lost River District are open for the first time in two years, many of the nearby trails are closed due to snowdrifts.

Fullenbach recommends that campers and other recreationists call the specific ranger districts to check on the status of their favorite sites and trails before making plans.

Thomas also reminds users that despite snow, fire danger is present throughout many sites on Forest Service land.

"Even if it's 'green,' please practice good sense," she said.

Fireworks are prohibited in national forests for that reason. Campers should drown, stir and check campfires with bare hands before leaving the site, ensuring fires are completely out. Smokers should use special caution.

Additional regulations require motorized vehicle users, such as ATV, OHV and motorcycle riders, to remain on designated trails. Motorized-use trail maps can be obtained from any Forest Service office, including the Ketchum Ranger District on Sun Valley Road.

Katherine Wutz:

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