Tamarack slammed; problems emerge

Droves of people discovered the Lakes Basin this past winter, but that was not altogether a good thing, according to the general manager of the Tamarack Lodge and Cross Country Ski Center.

“We’ve had problems before, but it’s gotten worse,” said Roy Moyer, who brought his concerns to a meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Trails Committee on Monday, April 7.

“Three years ago, when we also didn’t have a lot of snow, it wasn’t as big an issue. This year was just really hard.”

The problems began to emerge during the Christmas/New Year Holiday week, he said, and then continued to escalate as the season progressed.

During the holiday week, people who might not have wanted to ski snow-starved Mammoth Mountain sought recreation elsewhere. A new push online by Mammoth Lakes Tourism and others directed them to try Tamarack.

Unfortunately for Tamarack, they did, creating parking jams that were so tight along Twin Lakes Road that emergency vehicles wouldn’t have had a chance of busting through.

Inside those visitors’ vehicles, Moyer said, not only were people, but their dogs, too.

“We’ve seen lots of people bringing dogs up, and the dogs basically leave feces all over the place.

“My staff has to pick it up, along with all those really nice blue bags that people put the poop in and then throw [the bags] in the woods, and that’s starting to be a problem.”

In years past, to protect the groomed ski tracks and yet allow others access to the backcountry, Tamarack groomed an area to the left of the tracks for backcountry skiers and snowshoers, hoping they’d stay to the left and not damage the ski track.

It didn’t work out so well this past year, Moyer said.

“We used to have a lot of backcountry skiers and that’s not an issue going up there. In the past, we groomed the trails, and just to help out, we groomed an access, but now it’s advertised as a ‘groomed activity’ and it’s creating conflicts with people walking on trails, despite the signing.

“We’ve had confrontations with backcountry skiers, saying they can go anywhere they want.”

To alleviate the problem, the Tamarack staff actually roped off the ski tracks, hoping people would not post-hole their way through the groomed trails, but the success, at least this year, was a mixed bag, at best.

Another problem popped up when people started showing up in the Lakes Basin with sleds.

“What happens is that sledders slide into the skiers who have paid for a trail pass,” Moyer said, “so we had problems with people getting hit by sledders.”

It was, in other words, a terrific ski season at Tamarack, with horrific unintended consequences.

There were dogfights; there were dogs biting employees trying to break up the dogfights; there wasn’t enough parking and sledders, backcountry skiers, hikers and walkers went toe-to-tie with each other.

“We’re seeing more and more people up there,” Moyer said.

“In wintertime, it’s become such a popular venue that it’s starting to create problems for the XC Ski Center to operate.”