Thursday, February 28, 2008

NM News - Game Commission Kills Two Fly Rule

State Game Commissioners have shot down a proposal to limit anglers to the use of just two flies when fishing in New Mexico.

“I’m very disappointed,” Larry Johnson, treasurer of the San Juan Guide Association, said of the commissioners’ Feb. 21 failure to adopt the proposed two-fly rule.

Johnson, owner of the Soaring Eagle Lodge on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam, went before the commissioners representing a long list of guides, fly shop owners and anglers who backed the proposed limit on multiple fly rigs.

They claim that the use of the multiple fly rigs is damaging the state’s premier trout fishery by foul hooking and ensnaring fish, which causes unintentional injury and death.

They report increasing sightings of dead fish and entangled waterfowl as reasons behind the proposal. (see related story .

There is currently no limit on the number of hooks or flies an angler can use when fishing.

The proposed rule change would have had no impact on anglers who use bait and would have only applied to those who fly fish, especially on the state’s special trout waters, where catch and release is encouraged, flies and barbless hooks are required and harvesting is severely limited.

The San Juan River below Navajo Dam is such a special trout water and draws thousands of fly fishermen annually to stalk the resident population of an estimated 75,000 trout, averaging 18-inches in length.

Johnson argued before the commissioners that the San Juan fishery generates an estimated $25 million dollars a year for New Mexico’s economy and preserving the quality of the fishing experience there was essential.

Chief of Fisheries for the state Department of Game and Fish Mike Sloan reported to commissioners that public comment ran two to one in favor of the adoption of the rule with just as many calling for limitation of the rule to the San Juan only.

Sloan noted that while the issue had elicited a great deal of response from the public, there was none from any of the state’s angling organizations.

Mike Maurer, president of New Mexico Trout, in speaking before the commissioners claimed his organization hadn’t been made aware of the proposed rule change and thus didn’t have time to respond.

State Game Commissioner Jim McClintic, who noted his lifetime membership in New Mexico Trout, said he had received a lot of correspondence complaining about a lack of notice about the proposal. Newly appointed Commissioner, Oscar Simpson, also questioned the lack of notice and timing of the proposed rule change.

Opponents also argued that there was no scientific evidence to back the proponents’ claims and said statewide enactment of the rule, as state Department of Game and Fish officials proposed, was too far reaching.

Opponents also said that the use of three fly rigs was a widely used, traditional and appropriate practice among many in the fly fishing community and questioned the need to restrict its use without scientific evidence to prove its harm.

Sloan noted that the issue had been posted on the department’s website seeking public comment, and advertisements were placed in statewide papers announcing the rule change and where to go for public meetings.

The department proposed statewide adoption of the rule for uniformity’s sake, concedes much of the evidence of damage done by the rigs is anecdotal and was presenting the rule change prior to printing a new fishing regulation handbook.

The proposal was brought up for a vote upon the motion of Commissioner McClintic who remarked that he didn’t like the way the issue had been handled.

The majority of the board voted no with Commissioner Sandy Buffett, who had suggested tabling the motion for further study, the lone vote for adoption of the rule.

“It’s just what we hoped for,” Maurer of New Mexico Trout said of the commissioners’ decision. “If it had been restricted to just the San Juan we might have gone along with it.”

Johnson said his organization would regroup and consider their options.
“But we’re not done with this yet,” he said after the hearing.

More Gila Trout News

In other action the commissioners also voted to extend the Gila trout season in Black Canyon by an additional month to accommodate those frequenting the Gila wilderness and national forest in southern New Mexico during the hunting season.
The new season runs from July 1 to Oct. 31.

This is a catch and release area with barbless hooks or lures required and anglers must possess a free, special permit available online from the department.

Black Canyon Creek contains pure Gila trout and can be reached by motor vehicle.

Last year commissioners opened up select sections of the Gila to limited fishing, the first time since 1966, after the recovery efforts allowed the fish to be down listed from endangered to threatened.

Commissioners have now voted to also open lower Mogollon Creek to fishing for Gila trout this summer under the same conditions as Black Canyon.

This stretch of river requires about a six-mile hike in.

Anglers will also find opportunities to catch Gila trout on Iron Creek which features a two fish bag limit but also requires a lengthy hike in and is open year round.

Yvette Paroz of the department’s Conservation Services Division reported to commissioners that excess pure strain Gila trout reared at the federal hatchery in Mora were recently released into Gilita, Willow and Sapillo Creeks and the Gila Forks area.

Some of those fish were brood stock up to 20 inches in length and anglers have recently submitted catches to the department for consideration as the state record Gila trout catch.

(See related Gila Trout stories - Gila Open to Fishing and Gila Restoration Update )

Friday, February 22, 2008

Roadtrip NM - Gutierrez Canyon in Cedar Crest

Outdoor enthusiasts have a new area to explore in the Sandia Mountains south of Santa Fe with the recent addition of 700 acres of Gutierrez Canyon to the inventory of public, open space.

Located south of the Post Office in the village of Cedar Crest about 50 miles south of Santa Fe on State Highway 14, is a dirt lot that leads to the newly acquired public land.

“It’s owned by the people now and they can go use it,” said Jay Hart, director of the City of Albuquerque’s Division of Parks and Recreation whose Open Space Division will manage the property.

Visitors will find rudimentary trails laced throughout the piñon and juniper studded foothills and deep canyons harboring, towering ponderosa pines and plenty of wildlife, says John Peterson, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor who lives nearby and was instrumental in the properties’ acquisition.

Peterson said hikers can expect to find sign of wildlife including bears, bobcats, coyotes and the occasional mountain lion or even a ringtail cat in the area. Hawks, buzzards and eagles can be seen soaring in the updrafts above the hills too, he said.

Peterson, a longtime Cedar Crest resident, says the former ranchland has always been used by locals for hiking and horseback riding and the potential threat of development prompted him to work for public purchase of the $2.3 million property owned by the Milne family of Albuquerque.

Peterson found an ally in his effort with the Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit organization that works to conserve land for public use, and was able to secure $1.25 million from the state Legislature last year.

Then the state Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department kicked in $450,000 and the City of Albuquerque added a final $500,000 to the pot.

The city became involved because they already owned an adjacent 300-acre piece of land within Gutierrez Canyon that it had acquired from the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) back in the 1960s.

The city’s Open Space Division oversees 30,000 acres of public property scattered throughout the metropolitan area and surrounding counties and ranks first in the nation in open space per capita.

The state’s funding was contingent upon finding a public entity with appropriate resources and experience to manage the property, Hart said.

So when Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez committed the city to taking on the new parcel of land, a deal was offered to the Milne family, Hart said.

Although the state was $100,000 shy of the appraised $2.3 value, the Milnes agreed to accept and turned the property over to the public.

The new open space area will be named after John Milne, the former longtime superintendent of Albuquerque’s Public Schools for whom its football stadium behind Roosevelt Park is named after.

“I think he would be delighted,” said Milne’s granddaughter, Ruth Schifani, an Albuquerque lawyer who along with her four brothers approved the purchase.

Schifani said her grandfather purchased the property from the State Land Office for 10 cents an acre back in the 1930s. It was never developed and family members used it sporadically for an occasional hiking or camping trip.

“When we wanted to go up to the mountains, that’s where we’d go,” she said.

The family generously allowed locals to continue to use the land for recreational purposes and was more than willing to sell it to the public when an offer was tendered.

“We’re delighted it’ll continue to be enjoyed by the neighbors and the public,” Schifani said.

Peterson, the city’s longtime, volunteer steward of the city’s original Gutierrez Canyon open space, said the new parcel now opens up the entire canyon area to greater public use.

In the past, those who wanted to use the open space in Gutierrez Canyon would first have to know how to get to it through a maze of local neighborhoods.

But now with access to the entire property available right off State Highway 14, it’ll be easier for out-of-towners to find it.

Curtis Johnson, owner of the Turquoise Trail Center strip mall located next to the Post Office, says he psyched about the new open space.

He envisions eventual development of a parking area, trailhead and restrooms on the open space property and expects that to be good for his center’s businesses.

“Maybe we’ll bring in a coffee shop and bike shop to serve them,” he said.

Johnson lives across the highway from the Milne Open Space and is pleased it will remain undeveloped.

Hart said rules governing the open space area include prohibitions against the use of motorized vehicles such as ATVs (All-Terrain-Vehicles) or dirt bikes, no hunting or shooting is allowed and no camping, open fires or woodcutting is allowed.

“We want to maintain it in its natural state as much as possible” he said.

But dogs on a leash, mountain bikers, and those riding horses are more than welcome to enjoy the open space, he said.

Signs marking the open space area have yet to be installed but should be in place by this summer, Hart said.

In the meantime hikers need only look for the open dirt lot next to the Post Office and then head off into the gully and the surrounding countryside. Trails and property boundaries are readily apparent.

The new hiking area provides a great day trip for those living in Santa Fe with stops in the funky, old mining towns of Cerrillos and Madrid or perhaps a side trip up to Sandia Crest overlooking Albuquerque available along the way.

If You Go:
Take State Highway 14 out of Santa Fe past the State Penitentiary, the town of Cerrillos and on through Madrid. Continue on State Highway 14 to Cedar Crest and stop at the Post Office located next to Turquoise Trail Center. Park in the dirt lot adjacent to the Post Office and hike down into the gully and follow trails north and east. No trail signs or other services available. About 55 miles, one-way. An alternative return trip involves following State Highway 14 to its end, crossing under I-40 and heading west into Albuquerque along the frontage road, which emerges, on the top end of Central Avenue. Follow into town and then jump back on I-25 and head north. Adds about 25 more miles to the return trip.

This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican's Outdoors section.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

NM News - San Juan's Winter Wading Season Ends Early

The wading season on the San Juan River ended abruptly this week for most anglers after the federal Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) increased the water flow from Navajo Lake by fivefold to accommodate higher than expected snow runoff.

Flows have been cranked up to 3,000 cubic-feet-per-second (CFS) to release water stored in the reservoir above Navajo Dam in an effort to make room for almost twice the usual amount of runoff from snow in the San Juan Mountains.

“There’ll be quite a bit more depth and a whole lot more push,” Marc Wethington, fisheries biologist for the state Department of Game and Fish, said of the river he has worked for the past twelve years.

The river’s flow is expected to remain at 3,000 CFS until sometime in May when it’ll be increased to 5,000 CFS and then held at that level for about a month, as has been the usual practice in past years.

The higher flow of 5,000 CFS not only delivers stored water downstream to designated users but also mimics the annual spring flooding experienced by natural rivers.
The higher flow helps scour out silt and sediment in the riverbed which promotes a healthier fish habitat.

For most years, during the winter and early spring, the flow on the San Juan River typically remained at a reduced level of about 500 CFS which allowed anglers to easily wade and fish.

But with the increased snow pack this year, the usual winter wading season has been cut short leaving some guides concerned about a possible loss of business.

“I think the proposed flows of 3,000 CFS for almost four months will profoundly hurt the fly fishing industry in the San Juan River Valley,” Jude Duran wrote on the forum at Mike Mora’s Fly Fishing the San Juan River, a website at

“While this may be temporarily good for the fish and a small portion of the river bottom," he wrote. "This is bad for the valley, bad for recreational anglers these four months and could be dangerous for anglers who fall or don’t know the river well.”

Duran, 28, of Flora Vista, is an independent guide with six years work experience on the river.

However, not all guides on the San Juan River are as concerned about their business as Duran.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” said Larry Johnson, 54, of Soaring Eagle Lodge and a 10-year veteran of guiding on the San Juan River.

Johnson said the increased flows will be great for the river’s fish habitat and will mean stronger, healthier fish come summer.

As for his business, most of his customers prefer to fish from a drift boat and the higher flows are great for that type of fishing, Johnson said.

Those who might shy away from the higher flows could be locals who wade and fish the river.

But Johnson noted that the higher flows will open up other areas of the river to waders such as the back channels and areas that had been too shallow to hold fish at previously lower levels.

Johnson said anglers should get out there and safely explore these new areas for a whole new, and perhaps more meaningful, angling experience.

Johnson suggested that waders use a staff for stability, a floatation device in a case of an unexpected spill and heavier tackle to deal with the river’s increased flow.

Wethington said increased flows for lengthier periods of time would produce exceptional conditions for insects to thrive which in turn nourishes the river’s trout population.

“Look for stellar conditions this summer,” he said. “Particularly in the bait waters.”

Wethington said he intends to continue stocking lower stretches of the river which have undergone recent habitat improvement projects.

Wethington noted that under high water conditions these trout will have an opportunity to spread out and hide from the near constant fishing pressure that the popular river usually sustains.

Thus, these fish will have an opportunity to grow stronger and healthier in preparation for their eventual encounter with the many anglers who visit the state’s premier trout fishery on a daily basis.

Wethington noted that the current higher flows would require more caution when wading but that stronger, more experienced anglers who are familiar with the river’s terrain, shouldn’t have a problem.

Anglers spend about 250,000 hours a year fishing on the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. It is home to an estimated 75,000 trout and is estimated to contribute $20 million to $30 million to the state’s economy annually, Wethington said.

This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican's Outdoors section.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Profile NM - Bob Gerding Hunting and Fishing Promoter

Bob Gerding, Winter, 2008.

Just when cabin fever has you climbing the walls, Bob Gerding’s annual hunting and fishing show comes along to bring the great outdoors inside for a few days.

“It’s a great way to bust out of those winter blues,” says Gerding who celebrates his 10th anniversary of hosting the show at the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque.

For three days, outdoor enthusiasts can find hunting and fishing guides, lodge operators, outfitters, outdoors equipment retailers and nonprofit organizations manning booths at the Manuel Lujan Complex on the state fairgrounds in Albuquerque.
There’ll be events for kids, including a rock-climbing wall, laser and BB gun shooting ranges and a fly-casting pool.

Visitors will find seminars on dog training, fly-fishing the San Juan River in New Mexico or the Arkansas River in Colorado, African safaris and quail hunting.

There’ll be recreational vehicles of all types on display and informational booths from organizations such as the state Department of Game and Fish, Trout Unlimited, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Federation of Fly Fishers and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

To celebrate the show’s 10th anniversary, Gerding is giving away an Alaskan fishing trip including lodging, meals and airfare.

Door prizes and giveaways include an elk hunting permit on Ted Turner’s Vermejo Park Ranch and a Chama trip including passes on the Cumbres and Toltec Railroad.

The show runs from noon on Friday, Feb. 8th , to 7 p.m. and then 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, the 9th , and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, the 10th. Admission is $7 for adults and kids under 12 years old get in for free. Parking at the fairgrounds is $4.

So who is Bob Gerding anyhow and why does he do this?

“I just love it, these are my people,” Gerding, 69, of Albuquerque says.” It’s like a family reunion. It’s fun work.”

Gerding’s family and friends are all involved in making the show work, as are many of the business associates he’s come to know over his years from his work in the outdoor arena.

You may know Gerding from his deep, distinctive voice, tall stature and mane of silver hair. He hosts the weekend television show “Wild New Mexico,” talks fishing on 94Rock radio every Thursday and takes calls from viewers of KRQE-TV 13’s noon, news show on Wednesdays. He’s even done some voice-over work for commercials over the years.

Gerding says he ended up on the bawdy, heavy metal, radio show because the popular DJ, T.J. Trout, likes to fish.

“He’d come into the store and one day I asked him why he didn’t do a feature like TJ’s Trout picks or something like that on the radio?” Gerding said. “And he said ‘why don’t you?’ ”Gerding has made a lot of friends during his 20 years of working the counter at Charlies Sporting Goods in Albuquerque where he also taught fly-fishing, fly-tying, and published some books.

Then about 10 years ago he left the Domenici family business to start one of his own, putting clients together with outfitters through his company, Bob Gerding’s Outdoor Adventures.

Gerding got the idea for the annual hunting and fishing show while attending outdoor shows in Arizona and Colorado where he was marketing a book. He decided it was time to find a show closer to home and the idea was born.

The shows have proven to be very popular with up to 8,000 people attending last year, he said.

“And that’s not counting the kids,” he adds.

With all the friends Gerding has made over the years, has he every considered going into politics?

Gerding says he did in college for a brief time but after dabbling in the process a bit he decided it wasn’t for him.

“I realized I had too many ethics and not enough money,” he said.

Gerding is a longtime Albuquerque resident who graduated Highland High School.

He holds a business degree from the University of New Mexico where he has been named to the Anderson School of Business’ Hall of Fame.

He is an Army vet who served in the reserves during his college years and spent his two weeks of active duty each summer down at Fort Bliss in Texas.Gerding followed in his dad’s footsteps by going into the insurance business after college but he didn’t like the work and soon found himself managing Albuquerque’s first Orvis fly shop before moving on to Charlie’s.

Gerding and his wife, Harriet, a retired financial advisor, have two sons, Patrick, of Phoenix and Mike, of Denver, both of whom work in the business field.

A daughter, Laura, died at the age of 40 due to breast cancer, Gerding said.

He has a twin, Dick, a Farmington attorney whose likeness to his brother has come in handy on occasion.

“I’ve had him fill in for me once,” Gerding says of an instance involving a family
emergency. “He did some live (television) interviews and nobody knew the difference.”

Gerding said he and his brother took an interest in the outdoors as kids and their dad accommodated them with vacations to places like the Brazos River near Chama.

There the boys learned to fish from mentors like an elderly spinster from Albuquerque who took summers off from her job as a bookkeeper to relax and fish on the river.

Gerding said in those days they learned to fish with worms, salmon eggs and flies like a gray-hackled peacock or the Rio Grande King. Inevitably, they stuck to fly-fishing out of pure laziness because it was easier than baiting a hook all the time, Gerding said.

As teenagers, the two boys then got jobs at the Lazy Ray dude ranch up in the Jemez mountains. Located on the Rio Cebolla above Seven Springs Fish Hatchery, the ranch was where Gerding took on his first client, in teaching a woman to fish.

Gerding said he liked that job because he got to fish twice a day, once in the morning while the clients were getting ready to go out and later in the evening while they were all at happy hour.

He turned out to be such a good fisherman that one of his additional duties was to provide trout for the traditional Friday night fish fry, Gerding said.

It was here that he also discovered the beauty of the Valles Caldera. The ranch was then known as the Baca and was a neighbor of the Lazy Ray’s.

The ranch hands were free to visit and fish on each other’s property in those days and they all took full advantage of the opportunity, Gerding said.Nowadays Gerding still returns to the Valles Caldera to conduct fly-fishing clinics for the public visiting the preserve.

And while fly-fishing might be a very popular outdoor pursuit today, it wasn’t always so, Gerding said. It was a little known fishing method back when he was a youth, he said.

“I’d be fishing down on the Rio Grande by the Taos Junction bridge and people on the road would stop just to watch,” he said. “I’d draw a crowd.”

Then fly-fishing really took off after the Robert Redford’s movie “A River Runs Through It” came out in the 1990s, Gerding said. The yuppie era’s lifestyle and affluence also helped fuel interest in fly-fishing and other outdoor recreational pursuits, he added.

“I can’t tell you the number of outfits I sold and people I taught whom I never ever saw again,” Gerding said.

Gerding figures he’s taught at least 2,000 people how to fish during the course of his career.

Gerding speculates that the next “undiscovered” outdoor activity in New Mexico would be small-mouth bass fishing and Navajo dam would be the hot spot for pursuing that sport.

Gerding says the state needs to do a better job of promoting recreational tourism.

“Outdoor recreation in New Mexico is the most important rural industry we have,” Gerding says.

In the meantime, Gerding is doing his part promoting the industry and one of the primary benefits of his show is potential clients have a chance to personally meet guides, outfitters and lodge operators in the business.

“And there’s no one in these exhibit halls I wouldn’t personally recommend,” he says.

If You Go:

Take I-25 south to Albuquerque, get off at the Louisiana exit and follow it down to Lomas, turn right and head down to San Pedro, take a left and head down to the fairgrounds (now called Expo New Mexico). If to hit Central, you’ve gone to far. The show begins at noon on Friday, Feb 8th and runs until 7 p.m. It picks back again at on Saturday, Feb. 9, starting at 9 a.m. and continuing to 6 p.m. and then again on Sunday, Feb. 10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults and kids under 12 years old get in for free. Parking at the fairgrounds is $4.

This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican's Outdoors section.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Roadtrip NM -Snowmobiling Chama's Mountains

Bill Koozer gazed out across the deep, sparkling snow and towering pines of the high mountains above Chama and sighed with satisfaction.

“It’s so exhilarating,” he said. ”I feel very fortunate to be here.”

Koozer operates Cumbres Adventure Tours out of a roadside cabin off State Road 17 in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado.

And at age 76, it’s something this retired farmer and Marine Corps veteran still enjoys immensely.

“I like to see people having fun and enjoying the mountains like I do,” he says of his many customers who venture into the backcountry on his snowmobiles. ”And most of them seem to come back with a smile on their face, too.”

Koozer talks about retiring someday soon to spend more time with his family down in the warmer, sunnier climate of southern Arizona.

But when you see him gunning a powerful Skidoo up a hill of snow, the flaps of his mad bomber cap splayed out in the breeze, one might question that notion.

Koozer grew up on a farm in western Nebraska near the town of Alliance where his family did well raising wheat and potatoes during World War II.

Koozer went on to play football at Chadron College in Nebraska where he majored in physical education. But upon graduation, he discovered coaching jobs didn’t pay very well and instead of coaching he joined the Marine Corps.

“You know, I’m not sure what I was thinking,” he said of that decision. “I had some friends going in, there was a group of us.”

So at the height of the Korean War, Koozer shipped off to Officer Candidates School at Quantico, Va.

“It was tough,” he said. “We had four guys die during training.”

Koozer went on to earn his commission as a second lieutenant, but by that time a truce had been called in the war and he ended up as the company commander of a transportation unit at Camp Lejeune, N.C.

Koozer served his two-year term and then walked away from the Corps, returning to his roots in western Nebraska.

Koozer decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and tried farming for a living. As his career progressed, Koozer gravitated to the distribution side of the business and eventually opened a packing shed in Hereford, Texas.

“It was very profitable,” he said. “But the problem was I wanted to make too much money too fast.”

And thus Koozer learned his first hard lesson about the agriculture business when a torrential rainstorm wiped out a huge onion crop he had backed with most of his money.

“It put me in pretty bad shape,” he said.

But he learned from the experience and moved on to successfully manage several different farms and agricultural operations over the years, primarily in southern Colorado.

But despite his diligence he was to encounter hard luck again when a business deal with a partner on a lucrative farming operation went sour and he incurred another heavy loss.

“It still bothers me to talk about,” he says of that affair.Koozer doggedly stuck with the farming business but kept his eyes open for an opportunity to get out.

“It’s probably the best way to grow up, living on a farm,” he said. “But it can be a frustrating business.”

Koozer said as a kid he remembered working in the farm fields of western Nebraska and straining to see the far off mountains where he vowed to work and live someday.

So as Koozer worked the farms of the San Luis Valley of southern Colorado he also enjoyed visiting the mountains surrounding them, like those above Chama.

“And one day I saw these guys out running around on one of these (snowmobiles) and I decided then I had to have one,” Koozer said.

Koozer liked the machines so much he decided to turn others on to them and thus his touring business was born.

“Those guys out there with the snowmobiles are the greatest,” said Billy Plagens, 53, of Franklin, Texas, a roofing company owner who along with family went riding with Koozer’s guides in mid-January. “The best part was seeing all that country.

It’s really pretty. I mean this is something everybody should do at least once in their life.”

Koozer said the recent and much publicized plight of two Farmington, N.M., families who got lost in a blizzard while snowmobiling in the mountains above Chama shouldn’t scare off potential riders.

“It can happen when you don’t know the area and aren’t watching the weather,” he said. “People get to having a good time, get careless and the first thing you know a storm comes up behind you.“

Those families had to hole up in the Cumbres and Toltec train station at Osier and ride out several nights until the weather broke and help arrived.

“But in the end they did the right thing, they hunkered down and waited for help,” Koozer said.

Koozer said his guides, Dwayne Abeyta, 37, of Foxcreek, Colo., Joe Pacheco, 32, of Antonito, Colo., and Jerry Gravley, 61, of Chama, are experienced, well prepared and don’t take chances.

Koozer’s riders are also provided snowsuits, helmets and other outdoor equipment so they’re prepared to deal with backcountry conditions. Rides can last just a couple of hours or for as long as half or full day. Check out for prices and other details.

Koozer said he still accompanies tour groups on occasion but prefers to let his crew handle the rigors of leading new riders out across the snow.

And with up to six feet of snow on the ground and more expected in the coming week, Koozer said he expects the snowmobiling season to last well into April.

“I haven’t seen it like this in the 14 years I’ve been up here,” he said.
Koozer said those interested in seeing the snow blanketed, high country from the seat of a high-powered snowmobile need only give him a call at 719-376-2161 to arrange a tour.If You Go: Take US 84/285 north out of Santa Fe and at the first light in Española cross the river and continue on US 84 through Abiquiu to Chama. Pass through town past the railroad depot. Continue on up State Road 17 past the railroad station at the crest of the mountain. Continue on down the highway until you come to a sweeping curve in the road with a wide valley and several cabins and homes on the right. Look for the steak house and saloon and the Cumbres Adventure Tours sign. Pull in there. About 260 miles roundtrip. For an alternative return trip continue on Highway 17 over the mountain down to the Conejos River and the little village of Horca. Continue on Highway 17 past Foxcreek and on to the outskirts of Antonito and then take US 285 south through Ojo Caliente to Española and then back to Santa Fe on US 84/285. Adds about 10 miles to trip.

This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican's Outdoors section.

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