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Progress Log - Rainbow Lake Snowmobile Infractions #2388
Back To Discussion List Written: 2009.05.26 by: Robin Tivy

The purpose of this "Progress Log" is to keep a public log of exactly what progress has been made on curbing illegal snowmobile use in the Rainbow Lake area. These "progess logs" have proven to be useful in other areas, for example, see the Progress Log for Manning Park. My intention is to open a file on each one of these cases, and then act as an investigative newspaper reporter, and print news of whatever progress has been made. (Or not made).

Background: By looking at the Snowmobile Infraction Database, it is obvious that snowmobiles routinely go into the Rainbow lake area, despite the years that were spent by various organizations such as the Federation of Mountain Clubs working on the Sea to Sky LRMP (Land Resource Management Plan). From the Bivouac infraction database, one can see that in 2009, snowmobiles were rampaging through the Rainbow lake area on most every weekend.


#1758 - 2013.12.16 Robin Tivy - Province to collect $20 for grooming snowmobile runs
Numerous committees have been talking about the problem in the Whistler area, and as a response, the province is now going to charge $20 to snowmobilers to pay for grooming the trails. The snowmobile company operator will collect the fees. This will at least put some controls on the snowmobilers that are in the area.
 Here is a link: province bringing in new fees for snowmobile trail grooming.

Ideally, the snowmobile operator could be held responsible for making sure that all machines using their roads stay within boundaries, and if that is not possible, then it must be concluded that enforcement is impossible, and we go back to our position that the Sproat area is not suitable for machine recreation.

#1666 - 2013.03.26 Robin Tivy - Article in Pique Newsmagazine
Cathryn Atkinson has written a good article in Pique Newsmagazine where she interviewed Bryce Leigh, the access and environment director of the Alpine Club of Canada Whistler Section. See Magazine Article

#1664 - 2013.03.18 Robin Tivy - Robin Tivy's Comments on Alistair's plan for groomed snowmobile road to Sproat
In the previous posting, I reported the answers that Alistair McCrone told me as to how he intends to deal with the problem of non-compliant snowmobiles in the Rainbow Lake area.

I don't think his plan will work. The FMBC (federation of mountain clubs) has also said the same thing in a letter dated Feb 27, 2013 to Alistair. The letter raises many reasons why a groomed road is not a good idea, and below is just one point:

"While a fee for service trail may initially result in reduced snowmobile users, we believe it will only encourage and entrench motorized use of the "Sproat Mountain area".

A plan to reduce snowmobile use by making an improved snowmobile road and charging is just more fiddling around. Meanwhile the problem becomes more intrenched. The existing snowmobile road that is causing our current problems was built in 2009, and even at that time it was known to everybody that there was a problem at Rainbow lake. Now the problem is worse. Perhaps we were not clear enough. We need to take a simple and clear position on the Rainbow area. The only thing that is really going to work is to close the Sproat/Gin Tonic area to snowmobiles, and to reverse the mistakes made in 2009 to allow Canadian Snowmobile Adventures to build the road. The snowmobile community should understand. As Alistair pointed out, the current Rutherford Creek and Soo snowmobile trails are much more suitable for snowmobiling anyway, so why fiddle around with grooming a trail into the Rainbow area, and making Sproat "fee for service"?

Alistair's job is to somehow please both parties, but he does not have a mandate to solve the problem. It's a bit like having the job of getting smokers and non-smokers to agree on policies regarding smoking on airplanes or in restaurants. It couldn't be solved by endless meetings with the smokers. The only solution is for the government to take a bigger view, and decide that in this area we are not going to allow smoking, because nothing else will work.

So let's not get bogged down discussing all the detailed ideas at Sproat/Rainbow. The big picture is that none of these ideas like better signs, more enforcement, pay for service snowmobile roads is going to solve the problem. What will happen is that the snowmobile use will just become more entrenched in an unsuitable area that they should NEVER HAVE BEEN ALLOWED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

#1663 - 2013.03.17 Robin Tivy - Alistair McCrone's answers to questions by Robin Tivy (bivouac)
I sent some Alistair McCrone who is the Recreation Officer for the Sea to Sky Recreation District phoned me back to answer my questions. My goal is to accurately report what he said. Here is the email I sent to him:

Hello Alistair,
 I'm the publisher of and I've been maintaining a "progress log" on solving the Rainbow Lake Snowmobile actions. I wanted to welcome you to make any postings directly, but I also wanted to get it directly from you as to what exactly is the current plan for working towards a solution in the Rainbow Lake area. I've heard one plan is to post boundary signs in the alpine. Is that information up to date? Anything you can tell me about the status, as of March 12, 2013 would be welcome. Are there any upcoming meetings? What is the timeline?

Alistair phoned me back and we talked for 1/2 hour or so, and I jotted down some notes as to what he said, then summarized it, and sent it back to him to make sure it was reasonably accurate. He made some corrections and rewordings and below is the result:

Alistair outlined to me the economic importance of snowmobiling to a growing number of businesses in BC, attracting people from other provinces and states. People are coming here to snowmobile because of the vast wild areas, that are unmatched in the US perhaps because of a different regulatory structure. [Alistair says he is not knowledgeable enough regarding US law and policy etc to really comment accurately on this. ]

As a result of this influx, there are conflicts between snowmobile users and backcountry users. Rainbow lake is just one case. In answer to my question as to what are their current plans, he told me the following:

Alistair is currently bound by the Land Resource Management Plan (LRMP) which was set up in 2009. So within that, the snowmobiles have a right to park in and access the area south of Sproat.

(1) There is a joint agency task force consisting of the RCMP,Conservation Officers Corps, Minstry of Forests Lands and Natural Resource Operation and Recreation Sites and Trails BC to develop and implement a plan to deal with the problem. Enforcement Officers have begun an increased level of patrols already. The issue is facing an elevated level of attention in this district. The purpose of this task force is to work to address this problem District wide.

(2) Fee for service idea: Currently the Sproat area is free, whereas at Rutherford and Brandywine there is a "fee for service" to groom the snowmobile road. The plan is to change the road used to get to Sproat into a "Fee for service" groomed road as well. Although it may sound counter intuitive to upgrade the snowmobile access into the problem area, the idea is that once access to Sproat area is not free, then some snowmobilers will tend to choose the current "fee for service" trails (at Rutherford and Brandwine?) instead, because these offer a superior experience at an equal cost. And this is better because they get people deep into the mountains where there are less skiers. This will also bring the Forest Recreation regulations into effect. Currently there are no recreation specific regulations that apply to this area. The available number of parking lots will be reduced from approximately 60 to 25-30.

(3) More tools Currently there is little that they can do to issue tickets to rogue snowmobiles, because the Rainbow lake area is only recognized in the LRMP. Having the trail "fee for service" will give the recreation officer more "tools" to deal with snowmobile access. For example, the number of snowmobile parking spots will be reduced from 60 to 25 spots, and parking outside those spots can then be ticketed. Fee for service will be less attractive to outlaw snowmobilers, the ones likely to stray over the boundaries.

(4)Increased education: He hopes that with increased education in cooperation with the snowmobile clubs, the problem can be reduced, and gave the example of past conflicts in the Squamish area between dirt bikes and mountain bikes which have been succefully resolved through education and separating use spatially to reduce conflict.

(5) Signs and boundary markings: They have put up 3 big signs to outline the boundaries at key locations along the Sproatt Rainbow boundary. There is also the possibility of having markers for the boundaries.

In summary, Alistair cannot change the LRMP. If it is flawed, it has to be changed at the political level. Alistair has to do the best he can within the existing guidelines and the existing law. He cannot be an advocate any one type of backcountry user. He must work with each group to fairly try and meet the objectives outlined inthe LRMP.

#1661 - 2013.03.12 Robin Tivy - Some contact information
Here is the contact info of Alistair McCrone: 604 898-2125

#1660 - 2013.03.07 Scott Nelson - Past FMCBC action
The FMCBC is dealing with Alistair McCrone, the recreation officer for the sea to sky region. He's the on the ground government civil servant. His latest proposal was to put in a fee for service snowmobile trail to the alpine on sproatt, apparently in some sort of bid to reduce its popularity. The FMCBC got several clubs, the RMOW and WOP to oppose it when it went out for referral. I don't believe the BCMC wrote it's own letter on this issue. In the fall Alastair came to a rec and con meeting where he claimed he didn't have the necessary resources for enforcement. Alistair organized the installation of the boundary signs in the alpine. So far they don't seem to be working.

Better engagement with MLAs would be good. As there's an election looming, engaging the main candidates for the election would probably be better. If you want to volunteer to write a letter please do that.

#1659 - 2013.03.07 Robin Tivy - RCMP patrols
It has been posted in several places that the RCMP are doing patrols. I think the challenge they will run into is that they won't have time to make an effect at Rainbow. They can't be up there all the time, as and the snowmobilers will simply check to make sure there are no RCMP around. But it would prove me wrong if they were actually successful in issuing even a single ticket. Prove me wrong.

Here is the article:

Joint backcountry patrols underway RCMP and others enforcing regulations on snowmobilers POLICE REPORT Comments FEBRUARY 28, 2013

TANYA FOUBERT TANYA@WHISTLERQUESTION.COM Various government enforcement agencies are joining forces to conduct snowmobile patrols in various areas of the Sea to Sky corridor.

Whistler and Pemberton RCMP, the Conservation Officer Service, BC Parks and the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations are all involved in the joint patrols.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair said all agencies will be out enforcing the Motor Vehicle (All Terrain) Act, the Liquor Control Act, the Parks Act and the Forest and Range Practices Act.

LeClair said all snowmobiles must be registered, there will be no tolerance for the consumption of liquor and sledders must be aware of the areas of Crown land where winter recreation motorized use is prohibited.

Whistler RCMP has two snowmobiles and some members are trained to conduct the patrols of the backcountry in the Rutherford and Brandywine areas.

"We will be doing patrols as time permits," LeClair said. "We have been out several times already and plan on continuing those patrols."

#1658 - 2013.03.07 Robin Tivy - Steve Grant Plots Illegal Snowmobile use
Steve Grant has examined in detail the current Google satellite picture of Rainbow Lake area. He has documented over 30 snowmobiles in that one photo. Many in illegal locations on the Google satellite. Here is the article (which is free for anyone to read).

#1657 - 2013.03.07 Robin Tivy - Contacting MLA's is necessary
Lately myself and several others have been trying and find out the ongoing status of efforts to prevent illegal snowmobile access to Rainbow Lake area, otherwise referred to as the 21 Mile Creek Drainage. As you know, we have documented a huge number of infractions over the past 5 years. Bivouac Snowmobile Infraction database. The purpose of my posting here in Bivouac is to collect information and provide updates, and follow up. Here is a link to the old Progress Log - Rainbow Lake.

I'll start things off: as far as I can tell, the government is not currently considering any solution that is likely to work. Prove me wrong. Once we all agree that that is the true status, then the next step is to make sure something IS happening. We need to work with our elected representatives, the MLA's and cabinet ministers. It is not clear to me that the Federation of Mountain Clubs is able to do this. It is not clear to me that the mountain clubs are able to do it either. Nobody has time. If they can't do it, then it needs to be done by some other organizations or individuals. So I'm hoping me publishing the facts and doing followup will enable you and me to personally to make a difference. And I hope you'll find it worthwhile to support Bivouac in this effort.

Several years ago when snowmobiles were invading Manning Park, I spent a bunch of time phoning cabinet ministers and then being referred to park wardens, and I was able to make a difference. So it CAN be done. I was hoping someone else would be able to handle Rainbow Lake situation. Scott Nelson has done a huge amount of work in this area.

So let's work like a team. What teams do is they shout encouragement when someone does something good. And they also follow up to make sure people do what they say they are going to do. I know personally that I can use your encouragement, because I'm spending a lot of time on this, when I'm supposed to be working on improving bivouac features. So give me a bit of encouragement. Tell me you think the Bivouac effort is useful.

#1656 - 2013.03.07 Scott Nelson - Pique letter to the editor
Letter to the Editor of Pique Newsmagazine, published Feb 28 2013.

Thanks to a more liberal access policy at Whistler Olympic Park this year, backcountry skiing near Rainbow Lake in Twenty-One Mile Creek is more popular than ever, and with good reason. There's easy access to good ski terrain in what is supposed to be a non-motorized wilderness area. Yet snowmobilers are continuing to ride illegally in the watershed on an almost daily basis. These 600-pound machines are noisy, smelly, and spew a large portion of their fuel unburnt into the snow.

Under the Sea to Sky LRMP, Sproatt Mountain and Twenty-One Mile Creek were originally planned to be a fully non-motorized area. The snowmobilers objected, so a compromise was put in place in 2009 - snowmobilers would continue to have use of the south and west slopes of Sproatt, and the Twenty-One Mile Creek watershed would be a non-motorized zone. At the time it was recognized that the long, remote boundary would be difficult to enforce, so voluntary compliance would be necessary.

Four years later there is still no voluntary compliance despite extensive signage. Snowmobilers regularly ride right past large "no snowmobiling" signs and into the watershed. Snowmobilers have had their chance to make voluntary compliance work, so now it's time for a different solution.

The whole Sproatt Mountain area should be closed to snowmobilers entirely. This will make enforcement possible, as there is only one access point that snowmobilers can use. If snowmobilers can't use the Sproatt Mountain area without respecting the non-motorized areas they shouldn't be allowed to use Sproatt Mountain at all.

Scott Nelson, Vancouver

#1655 - 2013.03.07 Robin Tivy - The CSA road is there and so is the CSA snowmobile hut
I was following up on old postings to this log, and reread the posting by Mitch Sulkers from June 2009 saying that Canadian Snowmobiling was building a road. He was right. That road now exists, and so does a big snowmobile cabin in the area. And it is making the problem worse, because people are using the road to get into the rainbow lake area. Here is a link, and you can see the hut on the satellite. Canadian Snowmobile Adventures Cabin.

And, as predicted, it is impossible to patrol the boundary, and their road is being used by the individuals to get into the area.

What the log needs now is some documentation of what efforts the FMCBC made on this file, so we can learn from the failure. I will ask Scott Nelson.

#1665 - 2013.02.27 Robin Tivy - Letter sent to Alistair McCrone by FMCBC
February 27, 2013

Alistair McCrone Recreation Officer Sea To Sky Recreation District Recreation Sites and Trails BC

Dear Mr. McCrone,

Thank you for the referral on the proposed Sproatt Mountain snowmobile trail. The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC (FMCBC) applauds the recent efforts by the province of BC to educate and inform snowmobilers about the non-motorized zone in Twentyone Mile Creek. However, it has become apparent that the "no snowmobiling" signs are being largely ignored. Backcountry skiers, snowboarders/splitboarders and snowshoers have reported snowmobiles in the 21 Mile Creek non-motorized zone 17 out of 25 days with reporting this season. Better access for backcountry skiers from Whistler Olympic Park has highlighted the degree of conflict, particularly around Rainbow, Gin and Tonic, and Hanging Lakes.

While a fee for service trail may initially result in reduced snowmobile users, we believe it will only encourage and entrench motorized use of the "Sproatt Mountain area". Without enforcement of the boundaries between the motorized and non-motorized areas, backcountry skiers, snowboarders/splitboarders and snowshoers will once again be forced out of a non-motorized area by non-compliant snowmobile users.

The FMCBC is opposed to the proposed snowmobile trail for the following reasons:

1. Education and enforcement of the existing rules should be the priority. While payment of a trail fee may discourage some riders, in our view, establishing a fee for service trail will not help in this regard and will divert resources away from solving the problem. Creating a fee for service trail is not a prerequisite for increased education and enforcement effort. To date all trail improvements implemented by Canadian Snowmobile Adventures have only resulted in more snowmobiles in the watershed.

2. The proposed trail ends at Sproatt Lake, approximately 300m from the edge of Wildland Zone #23. Under the Sea to Sky LRMP, the management direction for this zone says, "There will be no further expansion of motorized access in the area, in order to maintain the zone for quiet enjoyment by the public." We believe the proposed trail is an expansion of motorized access to the Wildland Zone and it's approval would be contrary to the LRMP. Wildland Zone 23 includes most of the subalpine used as a snowmobile play area on the west and south sides of Sproatt Mountain.

3. An improved trail will attract more snowmobilers to the area and unless the boundaries between the motorized and non-motorized zones are clearly and consistently marked and enforced, there will be more violations of the non-motorized zone and more conflicts with backcountry skiers. Without some form of deterrence (i.e., periodic seizures of violators' snowmobiles), snowmobilers will continue to flaunt the non-motorized designation.

4. The proposal characterizes snowmobilers as "a fast growing user group". This is at odds with the wildland management directive "no further expansion of motorized access". Once an official snowmobile trail is established, there will be pressure to expand parking capacity. Backcountry skiing is also a fast growing user group with very similar numbers to snowmobilers. Backcountry skiers need safe, snowmobile free areas to enjoy.

5. A new snowmobile trail was recently approved for Roe Creek, another historically non-motorized area. It would be unfair to expand motorized access at both Roe Creek and Sproatt Mountain. If one area is being developed for snowmobiling the other should be developed for non-motorized recreation. Over the past 3 years, snowmobilers have had ample opportunity to demonstrate responsible use of the motorized areas on the south and west sides of Sproatt Mountain. Instead they have ignored signage and consistently ridden into the watershed area. We believe that to solve the problem, a heavy handed enforcement effort is needed (i.e., periodic seizure of non-compliant snowmobiles). If the province does not have the resources to regularly patrol and enforce the current non-motorized zone boundary, the whole Sproatt Mountain area should be closed to snowmobiling. This would permit enforcement at the bottom of the mountain, where spot checks can be easily implemented. Efforts to improve snowmobile trails in the Whistler area could then be directed to the 16 Mile Creek and the east side of Rainbow Mountain.

Should the province elect to retain public snowmobile usage on Sproatt Mountain, we request that the following measures be undertaken to avoid conflicts with non-motorized users:

1. Establish regular compliance and enforcement patrols along the boundary to apprehend violators and confiscate their snowmobiles.

2. Encourage the public to report violations by cell phone and follow up on calls with enforcement action.

3. Designate Hanging Lake and the surrounding basin as a non-motorized area. This area is heavily used by backcountry skiers coming up from Whistler Olympic Park. Conflicts will be unavoidable if Hanging Lake is kept in the motorized zone. Climbing and descending the avalanche slopes south of Hanging Lake is the only legal way for snowmobilers to reach Hanging Lake. These slopes are frequently used by backcountry skiers and it would be unsafe to have snowmobilers and backcountry skiers using these slopes simultaneously due to the different ways we manage avalanche hazards. In deep snow conditions it is not possible for a snowmobile to climb these slopes, forcing snowmobilers to ride through the 21 Mile Creek watershed to exit from Hanging Lake.

4. Undertake a study of the carrying capacity of the motorized areas on Sproatt Mountain. The FMCBC believes the proposed parking lot capacity of 25 vehicles (up to 50 snowmobiles) exceeds the carrying capacity of the motorized zone. Snowmobilers will look to ride in the non-motorized areas once the motorized area is tracked out. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this matter.


Scott Webster President

#1653 - 2013.02.19 Robin Tivy - More entries in
Bivouac has started followup on this file recently, since it is obvious that with 5 years of infractions reported in bivouac, we are not having success. There are infractions almost every weekend. Although it is very difficult for skiers to catch up with the snowmobilers, on several occasions they have been interviewed. Common answers are "this is crown land and I can go anywhere", and "I don't know where the boundaries are".

So as of 2013, Bill Maurer is working on getting the map boundaries in the form of a .gpx file, so they can be posted and mapped in Bivouac, and also in various other mapping databases such as open street map.

The Federation has a survey called "21 Mile Creek User survey", which also accumulates infraction reports.

#1499 - 2010.12.24 Scott Nelson - Signs
Signs have been installed at the snowmobile parking area showing the location of the 21 mile creek non motorized zone.

#1272 - 2009.06.03 Mitch Sulkers - Could be...
That may be, Scott, as I'm going on second-hand info. I plan to get up and take a look when the snow is gone. I have heard from a couple of folks that the road will access a cabin at Hanging Lake, but I haven't checked yet with CSA.

#1271 - 2009.06.03 Scott Nelson - New Snowmobile Trail (road)
I think the new snowmobile trail / road does not go to hanging lake, but to the next lake south. From that area, it is very easy for snowmobiles to access hanging lake and rainbow lake.

#1270 - 2009.06.02 Mitch Sulkers - Road to Hanging Lake
Further to the report on Bryce Leigh's meeting on May 8th, Bryce and I have met before with Forestry folks over these issues and I am not certain anything positive can be achieved at this time. Not long after we met with Forestry, it was learned that Canadian Snowmobile was completing a road through to the backcountry campsite at Hanging Lake, just west of the watershed boundary in upper 21 Mile Creek. This made it even easier for snowmachines to make their way into the watershed this winter, and I have been told that plans are to build a hut near Hanging Lake for Canadian customers...this has not been confirmed with Canadian yet, but the road is definitely there...

#1264 - 2009.05.14 Michael Feller - Section 58 Closures Needed
I appreciate the efforts to try and resolve the growing motorized/non-motorized conflicts.

I have spent several years with snowmobilers and others working through the winter backcountry forum process. After several years the snowmobilers in the process supported the recommendations for zoning. Those snowmobilers have since been replaced by others in their clubs and we are back to square one. I honestly believe that there is such a high proportion of ignorant, thuggish, wild-west, lawless types among snowmobilers that a few signs and conventional means of education, attending workshops, etc. is unlikely to solve the problem. Three years of "workshops" didn't do this, although the problem was aggravated by 1) the government's closure of the upper Callaghan to all snowmobilers except those of the commercial Callaghan Country operation, 2) giving snowmobilers what they wanted in the Phelix Ck. area, and 3) granting an expansion to the commercial Canadian Snowmobile Adventures operation to the top of Sproatt, the latter 2 giving snowmobilers the impression that they could go everywhere. These government actions are unlikely to be reversed and we are told there are no resources for enforcement of backcountry zoning. I am at a loss. I have stopped skiing in most places in the Squamish - Whistler area because I see no solution.

I believe that the backcountry urgently needs more Section 58 closures, 21 Mile Ck. being the obvious standout here, that there needs to be enforcement of the non-motorized zones, that snowmobilers should be blitzed with pamphlets describing backcountry ethics and where snowmobilers cannot go, and that all snowmobiles should be registered with a prominent registration allowing easy identification. Snowmobilers hate section 58 closures, so I believe another one (21 Mile Ck valley) with the threat of more unless they clean up their act, could provide an important stick (they have been given so many carrots that they only expect more) to nudge them towards proper backcountry behaviour. At the very least I would like any workshop to deliver a message to snowmobilers that their current behaviour and attitudes are unacceptable and that the government is prepared to use stronger action to remove them from non-motorized areas. A concrete example of this stronger action, in the form of a section 58 closure of 21 Mile Ck, I believe is needed, otherwise they will continue to believe they can do whatever they want with impunity.

Editors Note: "Section 58" is part of the Forest Range and Land Act for BC. It is the means by which the government can legally enforce usage of crown land. Otherwise various land use plans cannot be enforced by the RCMP, etc.

#1263 - 2009.05.08 null - Meeting with Bill Marshall, Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism
On May 8th Scott Nelson (VOC), Monika Bittle (BCMC), and Bruce Leigh (ACC Whistler) met with Peter Walters, Assistant Deputy Minister of Tourism, Culture, & Arts and by phone with Bill Marshall, Director Recreation, sites, and Trails Branch, MTCA. The main focus of the meeting was issues in the Callaghan Valley of which Rainbow watershed was foremost. Bruce believes they clearly got the point of our many concerns. He left the meeting feeling some optimism that they would act to get some adequate enforcement in place for the coming winter season.