Friday, September 28, 2007

Yellowstone National Park shuts out snow biking

The National Park Service has been working on a new long-term Winter Use Plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for the past several years. The main topic of debate has been the number of snowmobiles that will be allowed in the parks on a given day but the entire Winter Use Plan is being revised.

During the public comment period, our tiny group of snow bikers petitioned to be treated the same as cross-country skiers so that we would be allowed to ride on the groomed roads designated for over snow vehicles (OSVs).

The Winter Use Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement was released on Monday, September 24th and based on this document it appears that snow biking will not be allowed in Yellowstone. However, snow biking did get mentioned in the FEIS so at least we made it onto the Park Service's radar. Page 29 of the FEIS reads:

"Allow Snowbikes on Snowroads
A comment during public review of the DEIS suggested the parks allow snowbikes. Snowbikes are modified bicycles with larger, low-pressure tires to facilitate use on groomed routes. The NPS believes that the use of snowbikes could conflict with and/or create safety hazards along routes on which substantial numbers of snowmobiles and snowcoaches operate, such as the groomed roads in Yellowstone. Within units of the National Park System, bicycles may only be used on park roads, parking areas, and on routes designated for such use by special regulation. The NPS may consider whether the use of snowbikes would be appropriate on certain groomed roads in Grand Teton where conflicts with oversnow vehicles, other visitors or wildlife is not an issue."

The National Park Service have left themselves an opportunity to allow snow biking on Teton Park Road in Grand Teton National Park. This 20-mile section of road is closed to snowmobiles and is currently groomed for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing from December through March. Teton Park Road would be an incredible place to snow bike and I am excited about this possibility.

Selfishly, I am very disappointed we will not be able to ride in Yellowstone from the West Yellowstone entrance into Old Faithful. Why is it considered safe for a cross country skier but not safe for snow biking? Currently, cross country skiing is allowed on any groomed surface within either park.

The groomed roads in Yellowstone are open to Oversnow Vehicles as defined below:

Oversnow vehicles (OSVs): Self-propelled vehicles intended for travel on snow, driven by a track or tracks in contact with the snow, and which may be steered by skis or tracks in contact with the snow. This term includes both snowmobiles and snowcoaches.

Given the Park Service's definition of an OSV, maybe I will build up one of these specifically for Yellowstone adventures.


Simmons said...

I want a Ktrak too! Anything new for your Pugsley this year? I've got a few things in the works :)

Great job on your first 24 hour race by the way.

Chris said...

Hmm I am bummed too although I suppose we just aren't a loud enough voice to really be heard? I wrote in but maybe I should have sent 100 different letters from fake people.

I would be happy to come up with you to go ride wherever they allow us to up there and help be an ambassador to help change their opinions in the future. Maybe we could have a little mini rally up there somehow?

FixieDave said...

Cool news about teton and just the fact that were on there radar =)

Geoff said...

i like the ktrak idea. sure sounds like that would fit into their definition of OSV.

Dave said...

Simmons - the only thing I am planning for the FatBike is a nice handlebar bag to carry a -20F bag & sleeping pad.

Chris - I will have more info on the snow bike race on Wednesday. one way or another, you should come up here and ride this winter. The trails are really good!

The hitch in the OSV definition is the "self propelled" part. Otherwise the Ktrak fits perfectly. I still might try it.

Simmons said...

Couldn't you argue that the snow machines aren't self propelled. You have to push a lever with your thumb to get them moving. How is that different from pushing on your cranks which are levers as well. Just a thought.