Trees in the Las Conchas Fire area are now breaking and falling, creating a hazard for hikers, skiers and snowshoers. Courtesy/NPS
For those who enjoy getting out into the winter woods, this year Bandelier National Monument has the whole range of conditions available.
The ski trails and trail up Cerro Grande are in good shape for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, while trails at lower elevations can provide opportunities for hikes through the snow. But almost everywhere in the eastern Jemez, winter travelers need to beware of a serious hazard – falling trees resulting from the 2011 Las Conchas Fire.
As Stewart Robertson of the park’s fire staff warned, “Many of us have recently noticed a drastic increase of trees killed in the Las Conchas Fire breaking mid-trunk. Thousands of the trees are now weak enough to readily fall in any direction, especially on windy days. Limbs and branches can come down without warning and trees may also “domino”, with one falling tree hitting another and another. On windy days no one should go out into areas with trees burned by the Las Conchas fire, and everyone should be alert even on calm days.”
In addition to avoiding falling trees and branches, there are other things everyone should do when enjoying snow activities anywhere. Check the weather forecast, wear layers of clothing, carry spares of such items as gloves, and remember that days are short and night comes on quickly.
Eat well before going out on the trail, carry snacks, and be sure to stay hydrated. Use sunscreen and wear glasses to protect eyes from glare. Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia and begin treatment right away. If traveling alone, let someone know where you are going and when you expect to be back. At Bandelier, get a wilderness permit if backpacking overnight, and remember that pets are not permitted on any trails in the monument.
“This year we have enough snow for the monument to offer winter opportunities for visitors who want a stroll on a paved trail, or a hike in the snow, on up to showshoeing and cross-country skiing,” Bandelier Superintendent Jason Lott said. “It’s a beautiful area and we hope visitors will enjoy it all while also being careful and safe.”