SHERIDAN — Even as snow and colder temperatures fill the weather forecasts, folks venture to the Bighorn National Forest to make the most of the wintery conditions.
“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.
But as folks partake in all the Bighorn National Forest has to offer, forest managers and law enforcement remind everyone of some important rules and tips for safe winter recreation in the forest. A little forethought and preparation go a long way to ensuring a safe and enjoyable winter experience in the outdoors.
Some reminders from Bighorn National Forest workers:
• 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 ahead of time.
• Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
• Be aware of your surroundings.
• Don’t ride, ski or snowshoe alone.
• Most areas of the forest are outside cellphone coverage, so don’t rely on a cellphone 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.
• It’s a great idea for snowmobilers to 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.
Nearly 70 percent of the 1.1-million acre national forest is open to snowmobiles. Snowmobilers are encouraged to contact the Forest Service to find out what areas are open. Maps showing snowmobile trails are available at Bighorn National Forest offices in Buffalo, Greybull and Sheridan.
The Cloud Peak Wilderness, downhill and Nordic ski areas, the Medicine Wheel Snowmobile Restriction Area and wildlife area closures are not open to motorized over-snow vehicles.
Forest regulations require that off-road over-snow travel is allowed only when there are more than 6 inches of snow. This snow depth protects your machine as well as the natural features of the land. People snowmobiling off-road and damaging soil or exposed vegetation are subject to citations.
Wyoming law requires that all snowmobiles 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.
Additional information can be found on the US Forest Service website at https://www.fs.fed.us/.