Rules and Tips for Safe Winter Recreation

Press Release – Bighorn National Forest law enforcement officers and managers would like to remind everyone of some important rules and tips for safe winter recreation in the forest.

     Forest regulations require that off-road over-snow travel is allowed only when there are more than six inches of snow. This snow depth protects your machine as well as the natural features of the land. People caught snowmobiling off-road and damaging soil or exposed vegetation are subject to citations.

     Nearly 70 percent of the 1.1-million acre national forest is open to snowmobiles. The Cloud Peak Wilderness, downhill and Nordic ski areas, the Medicine Wheel Snowmobile Restriction Area, and wildlife area closures are off limits to over-snow vehicles.

     Wyoming law requires that all snowmobiles must have either a current Wyoming resident or nonresident user fee decal prominently displayed on the outside of each snowmobile. The $35 decal is available at many locations throughout the state.

     A little forethought and preparation go a long way to ensuring a safe and enjoyable winter experience in the outdoors.

  • Be prepared for the worst by making sure your vehicle is equipped for winter travel and carrying extra food and water and warm, dry clothing
  • Check the weather forecast and road conditions
  • Be aware of your surroundings
  • Don’t ride, ski, or snowshoe alone
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return
  • Most areas of the forest are outside cell phone coverage, so don’t rely on a cell phone for communication
  • Carry a SPOT or similar satellite messenger device
  • Snowmobilers, snowshoers, and skiers should carry an avalanche beacon, a shovel, and a probing pole, and know how to use them
  • Carry a GPS unit and a map
  • Snowmobilers should carry tools and an extra clutch belt
  • If visibility is poor, don’t go. If visibility deteriorates, stay put until conditions improve, or proceed with extra caution.

     “Whether your interest is snowmobiling, skiing, snow shoeing, or just enjoying the quiet beauty of the forest, we think the Bighorn National Forest is a special place in the winter,” said Dave McKee, recreation program manager for the forest.

     Snowmobilers are encouraged to contact the Forest Service to find out what areas are open to snowmobiles. Maps showing snowmobile trails and closed areas are available at Bighorn National Forest offices in Buffalo, Greybull, and Sheridan. The Forest Service can also provide the latest conditions on Forest Service roads.

     Information about snowmobile registration can be found at the Wyoming Trails website at wyotrails.state.wy.us/Snow/Index.aspx. Avalanche awareness information is available from www.fsavalanche.org/. Information about Wyoming road conditions can be found at WYDOT’s website www.wyoroad.info/. Visit the National Weather Service at www.crh.noaa.gov/riw/ for Wyoming weather forecasts.