With many activities closed for a good year now due to Covid-19, all backcountry user groups have seen a gigantic influx of new users and users from out of the area social distancing in the High Sierra. We have heard this from and seen this among winter users including snowshoers, alpine skiers, splitboarders, those using snowmobiles to ski and board, mountain snowmobilers, snowbikers, and snowmobile trail riders. This influx of users has created extensive pressure on the small percentage of legal motorized land throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin M.U., the Tahoe N.F., and the Humboldt-Toiyabe N.F. This pressure is not only from motorized users, but is also from non-motorized who like to use groomed trails since grooming requires motorized access.
As responsible backcountry users, we advocate for increased motorized access, tolerance and respect among all user groups, shared positive experiences for all user groups, and for all user groups to be well educated about boundaries before they make decisions on where and how to access the beauty of the High Sierra backcountry. And, of course, safety first! Be sure to follow the Sierra Avalanche Center and know before you go!.
If accessing from a California Sno-Park, be sure to order your sno-park pass online prior to arriving.
When you click on the links provided above, you will find more information about maps and boundaries. Here are a few examples.
If you were to stage at Hope Valley Sno-Park, you'll find a sign with a QR code to download the free Avenza map for that area. The advantage of using Avenza is that it will track where you are on the map so you know when you are approaching a boundary. You'll see here that when using motorized to access, you'll want to be sure to avoid crossing into the Mokelumne Wilderness. For non-motorized users, Mokelumne is expansive and a great non-motorized place for us to find solitude. Be sure to get your permit if you plan to stay overnight.
If you were to stage on Mount Rose, you could be traversing between the Humboldt-Toiyabe N.F. and the Lake Tahoe Basin M.U. Here is the most recent OSV map for the Lake Tahoe Basin M.U. And here is the most recent Mt. Rose OSV map for the Humboldt-Toiyabe N.F. Motorized users, be sure to know your boundaries and stay within the areas open to OSV.
When accessing the Tahoe National Forest, be sure to use the Tahoe N.F. OSV Map. You will see the boundaries with the Lake Tahoe Basin M.U. which is linked above so you can navigate between the two maps. When on the west side of Lake Tahoe, be sure to avoid the Granite Chief Wilderness and Pole Creek areas if you are using motorized to access. When north of Truckee, be sure to avoid Sagehen and the closure west of Independence Lake. Notice that ski resorts are off limits to motorized access. Notice also the white private property boundaries.
With the tremendous influx of backcountry users this winter, especially those new to the area, new to the sport, or traveling from outside of our area, it is vital that we continue to create a positive winter backcountry user culture. It is vital that all user groups have positive interactions, which may very well include nonmotorized users choosing to access in motorized areas, which is just fine.
In order to continue to develop this positive winter backcountry access culture here in the High Sierra, all users must know our boundaries so that we can make educated decisions where and how we access the backcountry, continue to ensure we are respecting environmentally sensitive areas, continue to ensure we have positive partnerships with the Forest Service, and continue to ensure we respect private property.
If you are a backcountry user and would like to collaborate with us on developing positive winter backcountry access culture in our region, email email@example.com. We look forward to working with you.
If you are concerned about the limited access that motorized users have, would like to practice your avalanche safety skills, would like to meet like minded people to ride with of any age or level, or would like to team up with an awesome group of people that care about the Tahoe region, go to www.laketahoesnowmobilers.com and click the red JOIN button to support the cause.
This article was written by club member Todd M. Wold, Ed.D. with support of the Executive Board of the Lake Tahoe Snowmobilers with continued positive partnership with Tahoe National Forest, Lake Tahoe Basin M.U., Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, and the Sierra Avalanche Center. If you found this article helpful, please share it on your social media and any other way that will reach backcountry users of the High Sierra.