The parking lot Sunday at Mayflower Gulch, a popular backcountry trailhead a few miles south of Copper Mountain. (Provided by Summit County Rescue Group)

Backcountry ski and snowboard destinations in the mountains near Denver continued to attract eager recreationalists over the weekend despite statements by Gov. Jared Polis urging people to stay close to home.

A CDOT camera overlooking the Berthoud Pass parking lot on Saturday showed it to be full. Both sides of Loveland Pass were filled with skiers and snowboarders on Saturday, according to Charles Pittman, public information officer with the Summit County Rescue Group.

A screenshot of Berthoud Pass taken on Monday, March 30. (via CDOT)

The lots on Vail Pass where skiers, riders and snowmobilers typically park to play in the Vail Pass Recreation Area were closed by the U.S. Forest Service because of the coronavirus outbreak, but cars have still been parking near the on-ramp.

Pittman, who is also a mission coordinator for the Summit County Rescue Group, spent more than two hours on Loveland Pass with a Summit County Sheriff’s Office deputy on Saturday and said he saw a lot of activity on both sides of the pass.

“There was a constant stream of vehicles providing ferry service for skiers and boarders,” Pittman said. “There were two state patrol officers also cruising up and down and constantly keeping people from illegal parking, which appeared to be challenging.”

RELATED: Front Range ski areas, Forest Service issue plea for uphill skiers to stay home

On Sunday, Pittman visited four popular trailheads in Summit County, all of which attracted many users.

“One deputy checked plates in the Quandary (Peak) parking lot and noted that 50% were from out-of-county,” Pittman said.

That was in direct defiance of the governor’s message on Friday.

“If you need to recreate outdoors, do it in communities close to your home,” Polis said in a Friday afternoon press conference. “Just because you’re not working, this doesn’t mean it’s vacation. It’s not the time to drive two or three hours from Denver to mountain communities, many of which are reeling from the crisis. Let me add, that is really dumb, because those communities have a higher rate of infection than where you live.”

Another concern expressed by Colorado search and rescue organizations has been that the closure of ski areas is leading inexperienced people into the backcountry — and that those inexperienced people do not understand or respect avalanche dynamics. While on Loveland Pass, Pittman surveyed skiers and riders to find out if they had avalanche beacons with them. Over the course of two hours, he only found one who did.

RELATED: Human-triggered avalanches rise as more people go into backcountry to exercise

This was only three days after backcountry users triggered an avalanche above the west portal of the Eisenhower-Johnson tunnels that was 300 feet wide and left avalanche debris 20 feet deep.

“Backcountry users seemed to be unconcerned about the avalanche danger,” Pittman said. “I found the lack of concern rather disturbing, but not unusual. I received the usual comments of ‘We are taking it easy today,’ and ‘I know the area and board here often,’ ” and, ‘Lots of people have already gone down here.’ “

In recent weeks, high visitation numbers in the backcountry have been a disturbing trend for county officials, first responders and rescue organizations. Charley Mace, an avid backcountry skier and Himalayan mountain guide, said he heard from friends a week ago who reported massive numbers at one backcountry destination he preferred not to name.

“One of them said it was four times as many people as he’s ever seen, the other guy said it was five times as many people,” Mace said. “I live here in Golden, I’ve got a bike path out my window, and every time I look out there, somebody is jogging or biking. People are absolutely getting out of the house, and people are not afraid to drive an hour to do the same thing to get to a trailhead.”

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