Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mountain Town News


By ALLEN BEST - MTN TOWN NEWS SERVICE

Crested Butte plans to charge skinners

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo.—Really, does anybody in a ski town need to be told what “skinning up” means? Maybe 20 or 25 years ago, just when the popularity of free-heel skiing was taking off. 

But now, virtually all ski areas in early morning, and some at night, have a ton of people marching up the mountain, most with skins and a few on snowshoes, out to get in a work out. “Earn your turns” is the phrase.

At Crested Butte, there are so many people marching uphill that the resort operator wants to charge them. Ethan Mueller, general manager of Crested Butte Mountain Resort, says 550 people have picked up free passes that allow them to use the company’s trails. In getting the pass, they also agree to abide by the rules.

The ski company now plans to charge non-pass-holders $75 annually or $5 per day for the privilege, reports the Crested Butte News. Pass holders would not be charged extra.

“We don’t anticipate making any money as a result, but we feel people take it more seriously if they pay something for the access,” Mueller said.

He added that it’s a “numbers situation,” meaning that “when there are hundreds of people skinning uphill, that’s not something we can just ignore.”

The resort must get approval from the Forest Service to impose new rules.

The News also reports that Crested Butte will make a route available to uphill skiers during the day when the lifts are running, when uphilling was previously banned.

In Breckenridge, uphillers were also in the news. Ski area employees say uphillers fail to clean up after their dogs or keep them in control.

“I have witnessed dogs chasing skiers, snowmobiles and snowcats,” Breckenridge Ski Patrol Director Kevin Ahern said. “This is an accident waiting to happen. As an avid skinner myself, I would hate to restrict our policy any more or lose the privilege altogether.” 

The ski resort's uphill-access policy requires all dogs to be on a leash or under voice command at all times, notes the Summit Daily News.

(In an interview with the Idaho Mountain Express, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests Public Information Officer Lee Ann Loupe said the Forest Service had not yet had time to evaluate the request. However, she said, “There are certain requirements under that [use] permit that can restrict general access.”)

 

Who’s at fault for deaths of 2 skiers?

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo.—Two deaths, both on ski slopes, were the subject of court filings and testimony in Colorado last week. The fundamental issue in both cases is whether the victims should have known better before they skied into closed areas—or whether the ski area operators provided insufficient warning.

Taft Conlin was 13 last January when, after one of that winter’s rare storms, he and buddies skied onto the lower portion of Prime Cornice, one of the steeper trails on Vail Mountain. The trail had been closed at the top. To get in more turns, he side-stepped up the mountain about 120 feet and onto the trail. He was killed by an avalanche that ran 400 feet, throwing him into a tree. He died of blunt-force trauma.

Vail Resorts claims that the youngster was entirely or mostly responsible for his own death, reports the Vail Daily, after examining court filings. Lawyers representing the victim’s parents claim the company created an “avalanche trap.”

“They seem to be asserting that there's an unwritten rule against climbing,” Jim Heckbert, attorney for the parents, told the Daily.

In Steamboat, snow was plentiful all winter long two years ago, when 19-year-old Cooper Larsh got off a Poma lift at the city-owned Howelsen Hill ski area and turned to his left. There were no out-of-bounds signs, but the trail maps indicated it was closed above the Alpine Slide, which operates only in summer. He lost control, flew six feet through the air and landed headfirst in the snow. He suffocated.

The Steamboat Pilot & Today explains that the city claims immunity under a state law. The exception is if there was a “dangerous condition” in public facilities. Whether that dangerous condition existed was the subject of two days of testimony, with a ruling yet to be determined. If there was, the case against the city government can then be pursued under Colorado’s Skier Safety Act.

 

Regulating chopper use in Aspen-Snowmass area

ASPEN, Colo.—Pitkin County commissioners are mulling how to regulate use of helicopters for commercial flying in unincorporated areas.

The Aspen Times reports that the commissioners are looking at a simple process for the permitting of low-impact photo shoots and film products. County planners estimate that four or five such shoots occur annually.

For now, at least, the commissioners aren’t touching regulations that would govern the use of drones for use in photographing real estate being marketed for sale.




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