McCall gets more snowmobile parking

Space opens up on Warren Wagon Road.

rphillips@idahostatesman.comNovember 28, 2013 

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The winter appears to be getting off to a good start, and hopefully snowmobilers will have a long, snowy season.

ROGER PHILLIPS — rphillips@idahostatesman.com

Snowmobilers often have thousands of miles to ride, but only a few acres to park.

That causes problems at popular areas, especially on weekends and holidays. One of Southwest Idaho’s most popular snowmobile areas will get some extra room this winter.

The Francis Wallace Parking Lot north of Payette Lake has been expanded to accommodate more vehicles.

There’s also been another area added near the road about a mile south of the lot, which will have a trail that connects with the Francis Wallace lot.

Idaho Parks and Recreation, which manages the state’s snowmobile grooming, is also replacing two groomers at McCall and Donnelly with new ones, according to Todd Wernex, trails specialist for parks and recreation.

Statewide, Wernex said the budgets for grooming are “looking decent.”

Grooming is paid by registrations on snowmobiles, and much like ski passes, the number of annual snowmobile registrations tends to follow snow depths. There’s a one-year lag time, so last year’s registration pays for this year’s grooming.

After a good winter, there is lots of registration money to pay for grooming snowmobile trails and plowing parking lots.

When a winter with scant snowfall (such as last winter) is followed by a snowy winter, funds can get slim.

“There’s no significant decrease (in registrations), so we’re looking pretty good,” Wernex said.

However, Parks and Recreation cut its funding to avalanche forecasting centers, so Wernex said those centers are actively seeking donations from users.

Avalanche forecasting centers are located in McCall and Ketchum and benefit all backcountry users during winter.

Parks and Recreation will continue its free avalanche education courses in southern Idaho this winter.

The next classroom session will be Dec. 10 at Birds of Prey Motorsports in Caldwell.

The classroom course lasts about two and half hours, and it is a prerequisite for the field course, which takes place on the snow.

The first field course is scheduled for Jan. 11 at the Whoop-em-up lot near Idaho City.

People can register for the courses at parksandrecreation.idaho.gov. Go to “Choose an Activity” and click on “snowmobiling.”

People who want to keep track of Parks and Recreation’s snowmobiling activities, including upcoming courses, can go to “Idaho Snowmobile Program” on Facebook.

Wernex also said snowmobilers should be on the watch for new Forest Service motor vehicle use maps, which will be available in January at Forest Service offices.

The maps will show areas open and closed to snowmobiling, and riders should beware that boundaries occasionally change, so it’s good to double-check before each riding season.

Roger Phillips: 377-6215, Twitter: @rogeroutdoors

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