Snow such luck: Winter lingers in Grand County backcountry
July 1, 2011
The Fourth of July is one of the most popular weekends for campers and outdoor enthusiasts in Grand County. But visitors should anticipate more snowpack than they normally encounter in early July, warns Kyle Patterson with the National Park Service.
“From lower elevations, the mountain peaks look majestic with blankets of snow,” Patterson said. “However the backcountry on both the east and west sides of the park still looks and feels like winter above 9,500 feet.”
Around the county, heavy snow, slush and ice linger on trails, including popular sections around Bear Lake and Monarch Lake.
Patterson added that with deep snow in many areas, park rangers are encountering visitors who are exhausted from post holing or who are getting injured by slipping or falling.
Some visitors are also getting lost and disoriented due to the snow-covered trails. Patterson encourages visitors to wear waterproof, lug-soled boots and to bring hiking poles to assist with travel as steep snow slopes, thin ice over water, snow cornices and snow bridges over moving water present additional hazards.
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The late snowpack also is contributing to high water, flooding and fast moving waterways around the county.
Flooding has closed several Forest Service campgrounds and is causing damage to a number of Forest Service roads in the Sulphur Ranger District.
Adventurers into remote areas should be aware that roads may not always be passable and should be prepared to encounter wet and muddy areas.
To prevent resource damage, “Please do not drive around closed gates, downed trees or snowbanks,” said Dianne Ritschard of the U.S. Forest Service in Steamboat Springs. “Driving on wet, muddy roads causes damage and you may get stuck and be unable to get help.”
The Forest Service urges drivers to not attempt roads that exceed their skill level and suggests that motorists be prepared in case they become stuck.
Many reservable campgrounds, including all three in Rocky Mountain National Park, are booked for the holiday weekend. Call in advance to confirm road status and campground closures.
Visitors to federal lands are reminded to leave their fireworks at home, as they are never allowed, even if there is still snow on the ground.
– Reid Armstrong can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19610.