The first year is a test
It appears that snowcats will get the okay to travel on Crested Butte streets this winter. The Town Council has scheduled a November 2 public hearing on an ordinance regulating such vehicles.
Under the ordinance, snowcats would not be allowed on town streets between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Five total permits would be issued. They would have to be street legal; could weigh no more than 20,000 pounds, would be limited to two round trips per day; and would have to be used at least once every two weeks. A specific snowcat route would be designated by the town manager for “rubber-tracked” vehicles and each would have to meet noise limitations.
Currently, only the Nordic Center trail-setting snowcat can use the streets. But Irwin Backcountry Guides (IBG) has requested that its “Tucker” snowcat be allowed as well. IBG wants to be able to refuel in town and also transport clients from Crested Butte to the ski area in Irwin. Other Irwin residents have expressed interest in obtaining a snowcat permit as well.
IBG attorney David Leinsdorf emphasized that IBG’s “Tucker” would not damage the town roads because it moves on rubber tracks and has a steerable front set of tracks. The Nordic cat has metal tracks but would not fall under this ordinance.
Councilperson Dan Escalante lives near First Street and Whiterock Avenue, which leads to the Irwin trailhead. “I and my neighbors have heightened concern over the issue and we want to make sure permits are very visible in case there is a problem and we want to ensure the noise doesn’t get out of hand,” he said.
Town attorney John Belkin assured him there were plenty of enforcement provisions if they became a problem. All the permits would also be reviewed at the end of the winter season. “This ordinance is a skeleton,” he said. “More details would come with the actual permit.”
Councilperson Leah Williams wanted to ensure that snowmobiles would continue to be banned from town. Belkin said they would remain off-limits.
Resident John Wirsing pointed out the town has several types of heavy machinery using the streets and under the restrictions placed in the ordinance, these machines would likely have a minor impact.
Town manager Susan Parker said a $500 bond for street repair would be required in addition to each $100 permit.
Given their employment with IBG, mayor Alan Bernholtz and councilman Billy Rankin stepped down from discussion of the issue because of their conflict of interest.
The council will look at a final ordinance at the November 2 meeting.