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Caution urged for winter recreation during next several days

We want citizens and visitors of the state to enjoy the newly fallen snow but not at undue risk

Saturday, January 23, 2010 -

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In the interest of public safety, the Coconino National Forest has issued a temporary Forest Order closing the Kachina Peaks Wilderness area to any and all entry. This order supersedes all Kachina Peaks Winter Backcountry permits already issued this season. Any backcountry skiing, snowboarding or snowshoeing from Snowbowl is prohibited until further notice, and violators are subject to criminal penalty. Additionally, popular Northern Arizona snow play areas, including Wing Mountain and other snow play sites in and around Flagstaff and Coconino County, will have limited access due to existing heavy snow accumulations impacting safe travel to and from Flagstaff.

This closure of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness area is based on recent storm activity and field observations of natural avalanche activity and snow instability. Further more, Snow play areas have limited access to safe and legal parking, as well as diminished resources for public safety. Public safety agencies are overwhelmed dealing with the aftermath of the severe winter storm which limits their ability to respond to non-emergency/snow play calls, related traffic congestion and parking issues. Parking along side the highway to play is not only illegal but can have deadly and or disastrous consequences.

The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue personnel have conducted two search and rescue operations in hazardous weather conditions this week. Search and Rescue must make risk assessment decisions and will take into account rescuer safety before deploying personnel into the field. Or in other words, people entering the back country against the forest order issued, may be doing so at their own peril. This Forest Order will be cancelled as soon as conditions permit at which time Back Country permits will be valid again.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Department of Transportation (ADOT) continue to urge motorists traveling on major interstates and highways to and from the high country to use caution and slow down accordingly for winter road conditions. City and county roads to designated snow play areas may be open. However, the roads will be snow packed and icy as well as narrower than usual with the large amount of snow which has been plowed to the side. This being so, motorists must use caution in passing traffic traveling in the opposite direction.

For additional information regarding the Forest Order at the Kachina Peaks Wilderness area please refer to the Coconino National Forest website at For more information about local snow play areas, accessibility and capacity, please contact the Flagstaff Visitor Center at 1-877-878-9377 or 928-774-9541 or visit their website at Before traveling, please visit or call 511 for the latest roadway conditions, closures and restrictions. Also, please review the on-line information for traveling in snow conditions at

Sources: Coconino County Sheriffs Office (CCSO), Coconino National Forest, City of Flagstaff, Ariz., Arizona Division of Emergency Management (ADEM), and the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT).

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is a state-level law enforcement agency whose mission is to protect human life and property by enforcing state laws, deterring criminal activity and providing vital support to the State of Arizona and its citizens.