Telluride Ski Resort cancels backcountry guide service

TELLURIDE – Just when Telluride Ski Resort was set to kick off a new ski season, a little rain fell on the parade.

To the dismay of backcountry skiers, the much-awaited, resort-sponsored guide service into the precipitous terrain of Bear Creek was canceled.

The ski resort, which initially had been encouraged by the U.S. Forest Service for its efforts in developing a formal guide service, said the deal fell through because of a “lack of alignment” among owners of private mining claims in the drainage.

“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,” Riley said.

Riley said the land owners failed to respond to numerous attempts to discuss the issue.

“They literally would not return e-mails or agree to get together to discuss a solution,” Riley said.

The disagreement apparently centers on whether fall-line skiing in the Bear Creek area, which borders the east side of the resort and has a long history of use by backcountry skiers, crosses the private mining claims.

According to Riley, the resort contends the Chapman mining claims don’t cause a barrier to fall-line skiing in Bear Creek.

However, the West mining claim does create a barrier, Riley said, as there is no way to travel down 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,” Riley said. “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.”

Because of the impasse, it falls again to the Forest Service to manage the skier traffic and deal with property owners in Bear Creek, Riley said.

“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,” Riley said. “The private landowners will also have to deal with thousands of the general public crossing their property each ski season.”

Riley added he “wouldn’t be surprised” if the Forest Service decided to bar public access to the Bear Creek area.


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