Most of Grand Lake’s snowmobiling trails will be open one year after East Troublesome Fire
Last December, an enormous volunteer effort cleared 30 miles of snowmobiling trails around Grand Lake following the East Troublesome Fire.
The removal of more than 5,000 burned trees allowed Grand Lake — known as the snowmobiling capital of Colorado — to keep the town’s favorite winter recreation up and running. But there was a lot more work to do this summer.
“A vast portion of the burned area was Arapaho National Forest lands that are a critical part of the Grand County tourism and recreation economy,” acting Sulphur District Ranger Kevin McLaughlin said of the East Troublesome Fire. “Our focus has been on reopening as much of our road and trail system as we safely can.”
In the year since East Troublesome, every snowmobiling route of the Grand Lake Trails has been cleared and more. Reid Armstrong, public affairs specialist for the Arapaho Roosevelt National Forests, said the efforts have reopened 39 Forest Service trails and roads equal to 120 miles of routes.
“I have to really give a lot of credit to the Forest Service and their fire crews,” said Cameron Stone, head groomer for the Grand Lake Trailgroomers. “They did an immense amount of work.”
Armstrong said that the Rocky Mountain Youth Corp spent 32 weeks clearing and stabilizing trail tread along with fire crews and hundreds of volunteers coordinated through Grand Lake Trailgrooming and the Headwaters Trails Alliance.
“All told, including areas outside of the snowmobile area, more than 40,000 burnt, broken and fallen trees were cleared from trails in Grand County this summer,” Armstrong said. “In addition to that, trails were stabilized, water bars were added (and) trail drainages were cleared of debris to prevent the trails from washing out.”
Because the Sulphur Ranger District is made up of only a handful of staff, the Forest Service benefited from extensive volunteer efforts to recover lands across the burn scar. Armstrong pegged the total amount of hours given by 975 volunteers to clearing Forest Service lands since October 2020 at 22,171 hours.
Stone explained that Grand Lake Trailgrooming focused their clearing efforts on the trails that don’t have motorized vehicle use in the summer, equal to about 14 miles of trails that go through swamp, wetlands and above treeline. He credited a number of community partners for donating equipment, funds and time.
He said many people expressed doubts that the trail system would be cleared just a year after the nearly 200,000-acre fire tour though so much of the Grand Lake snowmobiling trails.
“Personally, I knew it was possible, but a lot of people who saw it had doubts — with good reason,” Stone said. “That was a lot of work.”
About 20 miles of trails will be closed this winter for logging operations, but there will still be 66 miles of snowmobiling trail available this winter. With the landscape so drastically changed in the burn scar, snowmobilers are advised to be aware.
“The views are wide open up there, so it’s important to pay attention to the trail,” Stone said.
Even with so many hazards removed, Stone cautioned sledders to be extra cautious of falling trees especially in windy conditions. There may also be an increased avalanche risk because so many areas have lost their tree structure.
He gave his thanks to everyone who has donated to Grand Lake Trailgrooming and added that the nonprofit continues to accept donations for its winter operations. For more, including snowmobiling trail maps and trail status throughout the winter, go to http://www.GrandLakeTrailgroomers.com.
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