ASPEN - Smuggler Mountain on the edge of Aspen has been discovered this winter by sledding enthusiasts. Predictably, conflicts have resulted.
John Armstrong, Pitkin County open space and trails ranger, on Friday posted a new sign at the base of Smuggler Mountain Road, a gravel road that is snowpacked in winter. It climbs up the face of the mountain on the east edge of town. The sign is the latest iteration in Armstrong's ever-evolving quest to inform users of the proper etiquette at one of Aspen's most popular recreation spots.
It directs sledders to descend in control and at a safe speed, to announce themselves when they come up behind someone and to anticipate unpredictable reactions from dogs.
Armstrong estimates 200 to 400 people, plus 100 or so dogs, head up and down the road on a nice winter day.
Sledding this winter had led to one citation - not for the sledder but for a dog owner who received a warning and then a ticket after a dog bit a sledder, he said. The citation carried a $100 fine.
Locals have long sledded on Smuggler, a popular workout hike year-round, but this winter, sledding use seems to have intensified. Hikers get their exercise going uphill, carrying with them a small, plastic sled - essentially a seat with handles - for the ride down.
"I think it has just finally taken off," Armstrong said. "Not only do you get the good exercise going up, but it's fun coming down."
Open Space and Trails is not contemplating restrictions on sledding, but Armstrong is urging the varied users of Smuggler Mountain Road to be considerate of everyone else.
"We've got a lot of people having fun in a vary narrow corridor, and it's just a classic example of multiple use," he said.
Armstrong said he has fielded complaints from sledders about dogs rushing at them as they descend and from hikers who say sledders come up behind them without warning, sometimes at uncontrollable speeds. On the other hand, some of the hikers are listening to music through earbuds and can't hear what's going on around them, he said. And walkers are supposed to keep to the right except to pass others.
Dogs are allowed to be off leash on Smuggler, but they're supposed to be in sight and under voice control, and their human companions are required to have a leash at the ready (along with a poop bag). Pet owners should be prepared to leash up a dog if a sledder is advancing and the dog is likely to chase or charge it, Armstrong said.
"We want everybody to have fun, and we want everybody to be safe. That's the bottom line," he said.