The Dolores Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest is considering adding groomed skiing trails in the Dunton area. But first, wildlife officials are assessing potential wildlife impacts, including for the Canada lynx.
Two areas are under consideration for potential trails.
The Black Mesa area would be located about two miles northwest of the Dunton Hot Springs facility. This is the preferred location for the Nordic trails, because of proximity to the resort and the area’s seclusion. The area would be accessed by snowcat from Forest Service Roads 611 and 727.
The trails in this area would consist of two loops located out of the way of existing snowmobile routes. Each loop would be about 3.5 miles in length, for a total groomed length of 7.2 miles. Trail width would be 18 feet, and the looped area would encompass an area of about 16 acres.
An alternative location would be in the Dunton meadows area about three miles to the northeast of the Dunton Hot Springs facility. This area would be accessed from Forest Service Road 471. Guests would be driven by snowcat up FR 611 to FR471 and to the trails. The trail loops in this area would be located to the north and south of the existing road. The proposed trail for this area would be a single loop of about 7.2 miles.
Dunton Resort are proponents of the groomed trail to enhance their winter activities, said Tom Rice, San Juan forest recreation planner. If approved, Dunton would be authorized for a recreation permit to guide its clients to the trails. The trails would also be open to the general public.
Lynx are known to travel in the area, and snow compaction from the groomed trails is a concern.
“They rely on deep snow for hunting,” Rice said. “When it’s compacted, they lose their advantage and have to compete with other predators for prey.”
The final decision is expected in the coming months. The proposed groomed trails are all on forest service land and would be open to the public, with access via snowmobile, cross country skiing, snowbike, or snowshoe. The plan is to accommodate snow bikes on the groomed trails.
Additional facilities under consideration are benches at viewing/break locations and portable potties at trailheads. No permanent structures would be constructed, and activities would occur over snow only.