Buena Vista – A grant from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the Colorado Snowmobile Association allowed the Buena Vista Snowdrifters snowmobile club to replace the oldest snowcat in its fleet with a newer, more reliable model, Snowdrifters President Dirk Peratt said.

The Snowdrifters matched the $85,000 CPW grant with the group’s own savings from its annual operating budget to purchase a $107,000 snowcat from 2011, replacing a cat from 1995, Peratt said.

This is the second year in a row that CPW has awarded the Snowdrifters a grant that allowed them to buy a new cat, he said. In 2018, a $65,000 grant was used to purchase a $112,000 groomer, replacing a vehicle from 2008.

The grants were awarded by CPW through its snowmobile capital grants program in July.

“I really appreciate that CPW realizes that the Tincup and Cottonwood Pass areas are the primary economic driver for Buena Vista in the wintertime,” Peratt said.

From Nov. 18 to April 18, the Cottonwood Pass area becomes a massive state park and a powdery, virtually uninhabited paradise for winter recreationists.

Volunteer groups like the Snowdrifters and Heart of the Rockies Snowmobile Club are the ones who provide access to the park by grooming and maintaining trails using massive, specialized and vastly expensive vehicles, about 200 miles across the park.

In a year like this past one, snowcats are essential in clearing out avalanches, Peratt said.

While the name says snowmobiles, and motorized recreationists certainly do pack the Denny Creek trailhead to access the groomed trails, “we’re getting a lot more nonmotorized users,” Peratt said.

Heart of the Rockies Snowmobile club, which grooms Marshall Pass, also received $100,000 in this grant cycle.

The Chaffee County Times in Buena Vista is published by Arkansas Valley Publishing Co., the parent company of The Mountain Mail.