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Sign up: youth snowmobile safety course at fairgrounds

WINTERSPORTS — A free snowmobile safety course for youths ages 12-16 is set for Nov. 8 at the Spokane Winter Knights Snow Show at the Spokane County Fair & Expo Center.

Pre-register by Friday, Oct. 10.  

The snowmobile safety course training includes:

  •          Basic snowmobile maintenance.
  •          Survival skills and dealing with emergencies, including an avalanche awareness presentation by representatives of the Northwest Avalanche Center.
  •          The proper clothing and protection from winter weather.
  •          Hand signals while riding and other basic riding skills.
  •          Properly preparing for a ride.

Info: (360) 902-8664.

Yellowstone opens lottery for snowmobilers

WINTERSPORTS — Here's Yellowstone's latest plan to harness use of snowmobiles in the one of the nation's greatest wildlife parks.

Yellowstone NP to launch lottery for private snowmobile trips today
Under Yellowstone National Park's winter-use plan, snowmobiling without a guide will be allowed once again, with permits for parties of up to five snow machines through each of the park's four entrances each day to be issued via a lottery system that begins TODAY, Sept. 10, 2014.
—Jackson Hole Daily

Panhandle Forests respond to forest plan objections

PUBLIC LANDS — Regional Forest Service officials have responded to formal objections to the Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s Revised Forest Plan released earlier this year.

  • See the response document attached to this blog post.

The document of responses is the final step in the new objection process and provides the final decision for the 22 objections received from various groups.

Based on the responses, Northern Rockies Regional Forester Faye Krueger will be making modifications to the plan before signing the final decision that would conclude a forest planning process that began in 2002.

“This objection response is the outcome of a deliberative and extensive review of concerns raised by objectors involving complex regulatory and management issues,” said acting Associate Deputy Chief Greg Smith.

Forest officials say they should be able to complete the instructions this winter if the additional work indicates the forest does not need to go back out for public review.

The forest will begin implementation of the revised forest plan 30 days after the final Record of Decision is signed.

“The Kootenai and Idaho Panhandle Zone plans are the first two of the 1982 Forest Plans to go through the objection process,” Krueger said. “We are still learning how the objection process works and the Forest Service is applying what we have learned here to the other Forest Plans, nation-wide.”

The Idaho Panhandle National Forest’s plan revision process has been ongoing since 2002 and has included numerous public meetings, open houses and more than 100 community based work-group sessions.

A draft forest plan and draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) with multiple alternatives was released to the public in January 2012 and was followed by a 90 day public comment period.

After incorporation of public comments and the selection of an alternative the final Revised Forest Plan, final EIS and draft Record of Decision were released to the public in September 2013, which marked the beginning of the objection process.

Completion of the objection process is the final step before the forest finalizes the Record of Decision and begins implementation of the revised plan.

View the Revised Forest Plan and any of the supporting documents on the Idaho Panhandle NF’s Forest Plan Revision webpage, or contact a Forest Service Office.


Documents:

Backcountry skiers commenting on Forest Service plan

WINTERSPORTS — The public comment period for the U.S. Forest Service’s draft Over-Snow Vehicle (OSV) Travel Rule ends Aug. 4.   This rule will affect all national forests, including the Idaho Panhandle and Lolo National Forests, which are favorite winter destinations for both backcountry skiers, snowshoers and snowmobilers.

“The proposed OSV Travel Rule is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough,” says John Latta of the Inland Northwest Backcountry Alliance. The group has been working to sort out conflicts between snowmobilers and muscle-powered recreation in the Lookout Pass area and other special areas.

 Latta said nordic skiers, snowboarders, snowshoers and winter mountaineers should be weighing in to ensure the Forest Service adopts a rule “that meets its obligation to minimize the impacts of winter motorized use, and finally bring balance to the winter backcountry.”

Following is the group's recommendation for commenters:

PLEASE COMMENT ON THE OVER-SNOW VEHICLE RULE BY AUGUST 4

STEP 1: Review the WWA informational webpage about the draft rule HERE to get up to speed. Basically, we need to tell the Forest Service that the winter travel management rule should be consistent with the summer travel management rule.

STEP 2: Submit your comments online HERE. You can write your comments in the online form. OR if you prefer (and you’re computer savvy), you can modify and submit the WWA’s comment letter template (a Word document) that you can find HERE.
Let the Forest Service know how management of the winter backcountry has the potential to improve your experience on National Forest lands — or how a lack of management has degraded your experience.

You may want to make sure that you include these important points in your comments:

  • Winter travel management needs to take a “closed unless designated open” approach to OSVs, which is how the Forest Service currently manages off- road vehicles (ORVs).
  • Past administrative decisions about over-snow vehicle use that apply to only part of a forest or that do not consider the impacts of OSVs on other users or the environment, should not be “grandfathered in” and must be reexamined.
  • The draft OSV Rule defines an “area” differently than the existing ORV travel management rule. This change is unnecessary and the definition should be consistent in ALL seasons.

Please include information about your own experiences and local playground, be it the Stevens Peak backcountry area and/or any other backcountry area that you use.

STEP 3: Share your tracking number with WWA. When you submit your comments on the Regulations.gov website, it gives you a tracking number. Please copy that number <Ctrl C>, then paste the tracking number <Ctrl V> in the appropriate field, along with your name and email address, at the bottom of the WWA page HERE and click Submit.

Forest Service updates snowmobiling travel plan

WINTERSPORTS — Snowmobiling rules send mixed messages and where the machines are allowed to roam, groups say.

USFS releases updated over-snow travel management plan
Snowmobiling groups applauded the U.S. Forest Service's proposed update of its over-snow travel management plan that keeps access decisions at the local level, but Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Idaho-based group that filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service in 2005 over its management of over-snow travel said the plan did nothing to address inconsistencies found in the previous plan.
 —Missoulian

Snowmobilers, cyclists object to Panhandle forest plan

PUBLIC LANDS — The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is holding a meeting Tuesday, April 29, at the Coeur d'Alene Resort to discuss objections filed against the Revised Forest Management Plan.

For example:

  • Objections regarding wilderness study areas were filed by Idaho State Parks, snowmobiling groups, Montana mountain bikers and the Blue Ribbon Coalition will be addressed, among four other categories.
  • Objections regarding wild and scenic rivers were filed by American Whitewater.
  • Shoshone, Benewah and Bonner counties objected about the plan's lack of coordination with counties.
  • Objections regarding management indicator species were filed by Alliance for the Wild Rockies.

The public is welcome to attend the meeting, but only the objectors, designated speakers and the Forest Service reviewing officers will be allowed to interact in the proceedings.  

The goal is “to discuss objection issues and seek resolution prior to finalizing and implementing the revised plan,” said Jason Kirchner, Forest Service spokesman. 

  • A full meeting agenda and background on the IPNF Revised Forest Plan are available on the IPNF website.

The IPNF is currently operating under a forest plan that was completed in 1987 and has developed the revised forest plan to reflect changes in land use, science and public demands for the national forest. The objection resolution period is the final step in the process of revising the forest plan before a decision is made to implement the new plan.

 

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 21

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane have repeated their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in starting in February and finishing on March 21, 2014.

They endured bitter cold, treacherous ice, whiteout conditions and a hill so steep they needed a winch.

“It’s not a wildly popular thing to do,” said Jones, 74, noting that only one other snowmobiler did the entire route this year. “But it’s one of the greatest pleasures I’ve had in my life for two reasons: the land and the people.”

ALSO:

  • Click “continue reading” below to see Jones's last diary post from Day 21 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 20

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 20 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 19

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 19 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Canada reels from rash of avalanche fatalities

WINTER SPORTS — Five avalanche deaths in a week — the first in Banff National Park since 2008 — have prompted a plea from safety officials for backcountry users to be cautious in tricky snow conditions.

It has also sparked a discussion about how to better raise awareness about dangerous conditions.

See the story:

Parks Canada to review warning process after avalanches kill 7

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 18

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 18 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 17

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 17 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 16

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 16 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 15

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 15 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 14

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 14 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 13

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 13 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 12

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

Here's a tidbit Jones filed from the trail: 

We just got into Nulato after a very nice 100-mile run down the Yukon from Ruby. I had made arrangements for a couple of cots in the city building:  It's a back room they call “the apartment”.  Two giant bare Cabela's cots are the bunks.  But it's perfect.  The gal who lined me up is having Josh and I for a moose stew dinner tonight, so I didn't bring the stove in! 

One note:  There is a bathroom across the hall from our room.  A quick check shows that this is the
first once since Skwentna!  Not big deal, but we have stayed in cabins and tents with no toilets in them for 8 straight nights.

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 12 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 11

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 11 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 10

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 10 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 9

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 9 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 8

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 8 of their 22-day 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 7

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 7 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 6

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 6 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 5

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 5 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 4

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 4 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 3

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile in February and March 2014.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 3 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure in 2014.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 2

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are “150 miles up the trail and all is well” as they repeat their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile.  “We're hearing constant horror stories about things ahead,” reports Jones by email. “All in all the trail has been very good. The cold nighttime temperatures of the last couple of nights have really saved our bacon. Wireless is weak here… no photos until McGrath….”

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones' diary from Day 2 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure underway this winter.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Iditarod snowmobile Diary: Day 1

SNOWMOBILING — Bob Jones of Kettle Falls and Josh Rindal of Spokane are repeating their effort to follow Alaska's Iditarod Sled Dog Race by snowmobile.  

  • See the complete diary and photos from their 2012 trip — which marked Jones's 14th time on the Iditarod.
  • Click “continue reading” to see Jones's diary from Day 1 of their 22-day, 1,400-mile adventure underway this winter.

Below are links to each of the other diary posts and photos of their trip on the Iditarod Trail.

Alaska, Iditarod hurting for snow

SNOWMOBILING — Don't bother driving your snowmobile — or your sled dogs — to Alaska in search of good snow conditions.

Bob Jones of Kettle Falls drove up the Alaska-Canada Highway with his son in law, Josh Rindal, to make another 1,000-mile run on their sleds to follow the famous Iditarod sled dog race.  Jones chronicled his 14th Iditarod expedition in 2012 in this diary series.

At the end of last year's odyssey he said he'd sold his snowmobiles and was over his obsession with following the route.

Nevertheless, he's back.

“But all  you see is brown from Rohn to Nicolai. The race will start in Willow.  Here's a report he filed last night, with some interesting obervations about the changes to the Alcan.

About an hour ago I was sitting on the frozen Knik Lake, looking for a snow pile to unload our two machines onto in the morning.  There were NONE.  It didn't appear that any snow had been plowed on the ice on the lake all winter!  There might be 2-inches at most on the ice.  We'll just jerk them off the trailer onto the ice in the morning.  We almost decided to go the easy way from Deshka Landing to Skwentna tomorrow, but the Historic Iditarod.

Trail out of Knik is going to be our choice again this year:  After all, it IS the Iditarod Trail! The real kicker was the reading on the temperature gauge in my truck:  FIFTY DEGREES in Wasilla!!!  Holy S…!

The top of Rainy Pass was much warmer than Kettle Falls today.  So I can't imagine what's going to be in store for us up the trail:  Probably not much good! We came close to 'scratching' here in Wasilla, but decided to make a run for it.  There is NO snow around Nome, and they had a “freezing rain alert” in Golovin for today. 

Hopefully we will get some good old cold weather in a few days. We can always come back to Knik……well, maybe…..and we can quit at McGrath or Unalakleet and fly our shit back to Anchorage.

I had a great trip up the Alcan.  There were two major changes which have occurred in the 12 years since a drunk

like me was allowed into Canada:  First, oil exploration has made a major city out of little Fort St. John.  And, second, the area north of Whitehorse, to the Alaska Border, is now such a boring freeway that it isn't even fun to drive it anymore.  Perhaps the most over-built highway on the planet!  Good old Uncle Sam just gave the Canooks a big blank check and they made the most of it.  The most disgusting part of the whole thing is that the Canadians have NO sense of the great history of the Alcan. There are NO signs left along the road depicting any of that.  What a shame!  And I mean not a single sign for 300 miles telling anything of the highway:  Zero! 

Kootenay Pass avalanche fatality latest in spike of bad news

WINTER SPORTS — Several blog posts last week as well as my Sunday Outdoors section report about recent storms, unstable snow conditions and a spike in avalanche fatalities were both prophetic and out of date.

At least two more snow-goers died in Inland Northwest avalanches over the weekend:

  • A snowmobiler was killed Saturday near the Montana-Idaho border in the West Cabinet Range.
  • A backcountry skier was killed Sunday near Kootenay Pass, a popular British Columbia skiing and snowshoeing destination between Salmo and Creston.

The Kootenay Pass fatality involved a many in a party of four from Nelson. They were backcountry skiing in the Lightning Strike area, southwest of the highways yard at the top of the pass. 

In both fatal accidents, other members of the parties were partially buried by the slides but were rescued.

The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center had posted a forecast on Friday rating the avalanche hazard in the Selkirks-Cabinet region as considerable ranging to high in wind-loaded aspects.  The report noted that a human-triggered avalanche had been reported on Tuesday with no injuries. 

The Canadian Avalanche Centre had issued a special warning for British Columbia last week, as a result of an extended dry period in late January and early February.

“That long drought left the surface of the snowpack in very bad shape,” said the centre's Karl Klassen. “Now the new snow is sitting on one of the worst weak layers we’ve seen in a few years.”

The weakness is one to two meters deep, resulting in very large avalanches when triggered, Klassen said.

Click continue reading to read the sheriff's report on the Saturday, Feb. 22, avalanche near the Montana-Idaho border that killed Bryan William Harlow, age 49, of Libby.