The Vail Pass Task Force

Finally, your annual family ski trip to Shrine Mountain Inn is more than just a reservation. Once you arrive at the exit, you see them coming too: the other carload, equally enthusiastic, with snowmobiles in tow. Your youngster's neck cranes to get a better view of the machines and then asks, "Why do we have to carry everything to the hut…couldn't we get one of them to take our stuff?" And so the multi-use conversation begins, with your five year old.

According to Chuck Ogilby, current President of the Vail Pass Task Force and owner of the Shrine Mountain Inn, multi-use conversations among a group of concerned users in the Vail Pass area began in 1989 or 1990. "The area at the time was being overrun with snow machines with no areas reserved for quiet use. A helicopter operated a heli-ski operation, a snow-cat operator was there, several private snow-cat clubs, and of course the Shrine Mountain Inn, the Jackal, Janet's, and the Fowler-Hilliard huts. This intense use was chaos. But the use then was a fraction of what it has become today."

The group organized, and by the mid-nineties the Vail Pass Task Force had become a 501 c3 corporation. "For many years the Task Force tried to operate the area under a voluntary sharing (and separated) use plan. This, however, received no compliance from the snowmobile community. After years of frustration, and limited successes, the Task Force asked the Forest Service to implement a Fee Demo area as a last straw to manage the area."

"It is my true belief that if this action had not been taken, the entire 55,000 acres today would be one large snowmobile play area. This would have resulted in a sacrificed area for skiers including the non-motorized pods, which have worked, the elimination of the snowmobile through route in front of the Fowler-Hilliard, and larger non-motorized pods around the other huts, and a non-motorized Commando Run."

"The mission of the motorized user is to have marked, groomed, loop trails. For the non-motorized user the mission is to have designated, trackless, quiet areas and trails in which to seek enjoyment. I believe these objectives are being met better and better every year and it costs a great deal of money to administer both sides of this complex equation."

As an organization dedicated to self-reliant, non-motorized use of Colorado's backcountry, it is imperative that the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association supports the Vail Pass Fee Program. 10th Mountain collects fees from hut users when they make their booking. The fee program provides guidance to all winter recreationists visiting the Vail Pass area. Maps are distributed, showing the designated areas/trails for motorized and non-motorized use. Boundaries are marked with signs and have been set to maximize each user group's needs, and to utilize the area's topography. Patrolling rangers issue warnings and tickets when established boundaries are ignored, or fees are not paid. Working together, users of all types can now enjoy the Vail Pass area.

Please send comments to Jonathan Hare, Vail Pass Field Coordinator, jhare@fs.fed.us. Send comments regarding 10th Mountain's involvement in management of the Vail Pass area to 10th Mountain's Executive Director, Ben Dodge, ben@huts.org. Download a map of the Vail Pass management area here (caution, large download).