Comments needed to establish a Winter Non-Motorized Area in the Stemilt Basin

Skiing in the Stemilt Basin in the bowl closest to Mission Ridge. Because it is readily accessible to skiers and snowshoers, this zone is part of the proposed non-motorized area. The same bowl is sometimes tracked up by snowmobiles, making it unusable to skiers. There are other nearby bowls snowmobilers can access that are not practical for the average day skier to access.

The March 21 county meeting introducing the Stemilt Recreation Plan had strong attendance.  The hot button of the proposal was the winter non-motorized area (NMA) proposed at Clara Lake and in the Stemilt Basin adjacent to Mission Ridge (and extending down to the Upper Reservoir Loop Road). See map. Snowmobilers hope to kill the NMA, while skiers and snowshoers believe a legitimate recreation plan should accommodate more than just the needs of motorized users.

It’s a critical time in the process. For the winter NMA to be approved, backcountry skiers, cross-country skiers, snowshoers, and winter walkers must tell the county what they would like to see during the public comment period ahead. Whether you’re for or against the winter NMA, please take two minutes NOW and weigh-in.

An example of a message favoring the NMA: As a skier / snowshoer  non-motorized areas are central to the experience. That’s why I support the winter non-motorized area proposed in the Stemilt Recreation Plan. The proposed terrain around Clara Lake and in the Stemilt Basin is not large in the context of all the state lands in the interconnected Stemilt-Squilchuck-Naneum basins yet will give snowshoers, backcountry skiers, cross-country skiers, and winter walkers a high-quality experience.

Personalize your comments and email them to
Or mail comments to: Chelan County Natural Resource Department; 411 Washington St. Suite 201; Wenatchee, WA 98801


Nine Reasons Winter NMAs Should Be Established
(you might mention one of these in your comment)

  1. The winter non-motorized area is consistent with the larger state process of the Naneum Recreation Plan (approved two years ago). The Naneum Plan clearly mandates for a winter NMA in the Stemilt Basin and in the area surrounding Clara Lake. The total acreage for the proposed NMA is less than 4,000 acres, leaving snowmobilers with 226,000 acres of terrain for their recreation in the Stemilt Basin and in the adjacent state land covered in the Naneum Recreation Plan (the winter NMA is only 1.7% of the total). Scale this to a 2,300 square foot home and the proposed winter NMA is the home’s coat closet.
  2. Non-motorized winter recreation in aggregate (snowshoers plus backcountry skiers plus cross-country skiers) is a much larger user group (over 9 million people nationally) than snowmobilers (under 1.5 million people nationally). Non-motorists deserve space and opportunities in winter.
  3. Non-motorized winter sports are still growing quickly while snowmobile sales have declined steadily for 15 years. The Stemilt Recreation Plan does a good job of looking at current and future trends when it proposes wintertime non-motorized areas.
  4. Currently there are 170 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and zero miles of winter non-motorized trails in the Naneum-Colockum area. Likewise, there are over 185 parking spaces for winter motorized users and none for non-motorized users. The cost of maintaining winter infrastructure: high for motorized sports, low for non-motorized recreation.
  5. These are public lands so no single user group should have a stranglehold. Both the Naneum and Stemilt recreation plans vision statements call for a balance of shared recreational use.
  6. The location of the proposed winter NMA is sensible because the land is among the most easily accessed for the largest number of recreationalists who snowshoe, ski, or winter walk. Furthermore, the proposed non-motorized zone flanks the Mission Ridge Ski Area which does not allow public snowmobile use. This means the winter NMA will see far fewer violations because the ski area protects several boundaries from misuse.
  7. Snowmobilers maintain we can all share the same areas but that’s like arguing basketball players should be happy playing hoop on a football field. Non-motorists need separation for safe, high-quality recreational experiences. Several National Forest in the Western snowbelt realize this and are seeing good results by separating users with different needs.
  8. Non-motorists like neither the noise nor fumes of snowmobiles. Non-motorists also sometimes feel unsafe around the speed of snowmobiles (especially true of parents skiing or snowshoeing with children). Snowmobiles quickly track out the untracked-snow experience backcountry skiers seek and occasionally the deep ruts left by machines are injury hazards to skiers coming downhill. Finally backcountry skiers ascending steeper slopes can be exposed to unexpected avalanche hazard if snowmobilers arrive and begin high-marking the same slopes.
  9. Snowmobilers may question the need for non-motorized areas because they don’t see snowshoers or skiers in the areas they frequent. This is not because the non-motorized crowd doesn’t exist but testimony to the fact that non-motorists avoid places with heavy snowmobile use. Establish non-motorized zones in the Stemilt Basin and people will use them.


Click here to see documents and maps of the proposed Stemilt Recreation Plan.


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