SHERIDAN — The Bighorn National Forest is a fantastic place for winter recreation. Whether your interest is skiing, snowshoeing, fat-biking or using a motorized over-snow vehicle there is opportunity for you to get outside.
Before you head out, Bighorn National Forest managers would like to 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.
• 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
• 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 cell phone for communication
• Carry a SPOT or similar satellite messenger device
• Over-snow vehicle users, 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 over-snow vehicle users 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
• This is an especially difficult time for wildlife. Give them space no matter your mode of travel and be aware how your presence may be affecting them
• Keep your pets under control at all times for their safety and to avoid stressing wildlife.
Forest regulations require that off-road over-snow travel is allowed only when there are more than six inches of snow and only from Nov. 16 through May 15. This snow depth protects your machine as well as the natural features of the land.
People using over-snow vehicles off-road and damaging soil or exposed vegetation could be subject to citations.
Nearly 70% of the 1.1-million acre national forest is open to over-snow vehicles. Over-snow vehicle users are encouraged to contact USFS staff to find out what areas are open to over-snow vehicles. 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. Maps showing over-snow vehicle trails are available at Bighorn National Forest offices in Buffalo, Greybull and Sheridan. The Forest Service can also provide the latest conditions on USFS roads.
Wyoming law requires that all over-snow vehicles must have either a current Wyoming resident or nonresident user fee decal prominently displayed on the outside of each over-snow vehicle. An over-snow vehicle is a motor vehicle designed for use over snow and runs on a track or tracks and/or a ski or skis, while in use over snow. The $35 decal is available at many locations throughout the state.
More information about over-snow vehicle registration can be found at the Wyoming Trails website at wyoparks.state.wy.us/index.php/snowmobile.
Avalanche awareness information is available from avalanche.org/national-avalanche-center/.
Information about Wyoming road conditions can be found at WYDOT’s websitewyoroad.info.
Visit the National Weather Service at weather.gov/riw/ for Wyoming weather forecasts.