Telluride Ski Resort announced today that it is cancelling its backcountry guide program in the Bear Creek drainage, which is located immediately east of the ski area. The resort cited a lack of alignment with private owners of mining claims in the drainage.
The Resort was originally encouraged by the U.S. Forest Service to provide a guide service to help manage the growing use of the backcountry area.
“Telluride Ski Resort believed it was providing a much needed public service which would help people learn to safely navigate the area,” said Resort CEO Dave Riley. “However, certain owners of mining claims, Irene West, Tom Chapman, and Ron Curry, have not accepted our offer to provide insurance and indemnification agreements in return for access privileges across their property.”
Despite numerous attempts to reach out to the private land owners, the Ski Resort was unable to get a response. “They literally would not return emails or agree to get together to discuss a solution”, said Riley.
The Ski Resort contends that the Chapman mining claims don’t cause a barrier to fall line skiing in Bear Creek, but the West mining claim does create a barrier as there is no way to travel down through the drainage from the upper basin to the lower terrain without crossing the West property.
“Irene West sent me a letter last spring asking the Ski Resort to stop the guide program which crosses her property,” said Riley. “After that, she stopped communicating with us. Tom Chapman coordinated a survey of her property, so it is reasonable to assume they have been in contact with each other.”
The Ski Resort also announced that it will not be continuing the Bear Creek avalanche study this winter. “We completed what we needed over the last two ski seasons to understand how avalanches work in that area,” said Riley.
Riley added, “At this stage, it is up to the Forest Service to manage the ever growing skier traffic in Bear Creek, and coordinate with the private landowners. Without a backcountry guide service the Ski Resort has no role in managing the public’s use and recreation outside our U.S. Forest Service permit area. The private landowners will also have to deal with thousands of the general public crossing their property each ski season.”
The announcement falls on the heels of a recent on-line survey conducted by the ski resort which showed strong support for the concept of a new “Delta” lift in upper Bear Creek, the location of which solves the conflict with the private lands as there would be no reason to ski down through the bottom of the drainage. When sorted by local zip code, seventy-four percent of the respondents voted in favor of the new lift and terrain expansion. Nationally, eighty-four percent of the respondents were in favor.
“It would not surprise me if the next action is for the Forest Service to close the Bear Creek backcountry gates, based on the private landowners’ current position. It’s clearly a possibility,” said Riley.