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Winter blankets forest

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Snow has blanketed the woods east of Kamas and throngs of skiers, snowmobilers and other winter sports enthusiasts have taken to trails in the National Forest for an escape.

"You’ve got the Mirror Lake Highway for snowmobiling and then you’ve got the Beaver Creek ski trail that is extremely popular for cross-country skiers," said Kathy Jo Pollock, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service. "Then we do have snowshoers who recreate in the same vicinity."

For many cross-country skiers, the Beaver Creek trail is their final destination in Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest outside Kamas.

"It’s one of the more popular areas around that vicinity," Pollock said. "You’ve got local users and then you’ve got individuals who come in from the Salt Lake area who use it also."

Officials groomed large portions of the Beaver Creek ski trail, off the Mirror Lake Highway, on Dec. 17. The best skiing conditions were between the Beaver Creek admin site and the Shingle Creek campground where a classic track is set with a base layer of snow between 16 and 20 inches deep.

There were also good conditions for cross-country skiing between Shingle Creek campground and Shingle Creek crossing, according to U.S. Forest Service officials. A classic track is set with a base layer between 20 and 28 inches.

Because getting maintenance equipment into the areas has been difficult, officials have been unable to groom the Pine Valley Oval, North Fork West and North Fork East trails.

"The North Fork of the Provo is one of my favorites," said Cody Clark, an employee at White Pine Touring in Park City. "The good thing about the North Fork of the Provo is it’s closed to motorized winter use. So if you are looking for a good non-motorized experience, that’s a good place to go."

For beginning skiers and snowshoers, however, Shingle Creek is tough to beat, he said.

"At Shingle Creek there is a lot of good cross-country skiing," Clark explained. "You just park off the side of the road."

A three-day pass for recreating along the Mirror Lake Highway costs $6, which can be paid at a shack near the entryway into the forest.

"At the shack they give you a map of the area so you can see where Shingle Creek is and you can see where North Fork is," Clark said. "When you are traveling in snow, either the trail has already been stomped down so you know where to go, or you follow your trail and follow your tracks back. It’s all pretty easy to find."

But a snowmobile is needed for accessing much of the backcountry skiing along the Mirror Lake Highway, he said.

The Uinta Mountains are unique because they are the only major mountains in North America that stretch from west to east, Clark said.

"I like it because it’s a lot of terrain and less people," he said. "A lot of people know about it. Some people just don’t want to make the drive out there."

Avalanche danger on developed trails near the Mirror Lake Highway is often low, Clark said.

"It’s generally more rolling terrain," he said. "Typically, the terrain off the Mirror Lake Highway is rolling hills less than 30 degrees, which is good for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing."

You can access the Mirror Lake Highway from the city of Kamas, which is about 15 miles east of Park City, he said.

Meanwhile, crews are scheduled most days to groom snowmobile trails in the forest.

Information about the Mirror Lake Highway, as well as trails in Weber Canyon and near State Road 35, is available by calling the Heber-Kamas Ranger District at (435) 654-0470.


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