- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

PENDLETON, Ore. (AP) - The owner of an Oregon ski area says he won’t open this season because of concerns about snowmobiles creating an unsafe environment in his parking lot.

Spout Springs Ski Area owner John Murray said the slopes are otherwise ready to open but the machines have made the parking area too dangerous for customers, reported The East Oregonian (https://bit.ly/2gEFfK1 ).

“I see snowmobiles turning back and forth in the lot, 24/7, day and night,” Murray said. “I’m not going to be responsible for anyone being hurt. We’ve had some really close calls.”

Murray has owned Spout Springs for the past 18 years and the site has been in continuous operation since the 1920s.

The ski area is along Highway 204 in Umatilla County. It operates under a special use permit with the Umatilla National Forest and is also a designated Sno-Park area, allowing it to be used as a launch point for snowmobiles to access trails.

Walla Walla District Ranger Mike Rassbach said about two-thirds of the Spout Springs lot is for day use only and the remaining third is set aside for trailers and overnight parking. The forest is trying to make sure everyone plays by the rules, he said, pointing out that the parking lot has been managed that way for quite some time.

“Through education and enforcement, we hope we can get people parking where they’re supposed to park,” said Rassbach, who recently met with Murray to discuss his concerns.

Murray, however, believes the snowmobiles and trailers are so numerous that they pose a safety risk to skiers and children.

“I’m very unhappy about this,” he said. “In my opinion, we’ve just lost control of the parking area.”

Dave Byrd, who works for the National Ski Areas Association in Denver, said many ski areas on Forest Service land in the West have restricted snowmobile use in their permit areas and said Umatilla Forest should be willing to do the same.

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Information from: East Oregonian, https://www.eastoregonian.com

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