By Allen Best
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 that 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,” said Mueller. 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 all together.”
Privatizing Canada’s hot springs
JASPER, Alberta – In an effort to reduce subsidies needed to operate its hot springs at Banff, Jasper and Radium, Parks Canada plans to privatize their operations. But the Public Service Alliance of Canada, one of the country’s largest unions, is fighting the privatization effort, calling it a “reckless cut” to public services.
A representative of Parks Canada reassured Jasper’s Fitzhugh that privatization will be nothing of the sort.
“Shifting their operation to the private sector will provide greater capacity and flexibility to respond to the demands of the tourism market and will maximize opportunities for enhancing the facilities, operations, and marketing,” said Alisson Ogle, public relations and communications representative for Parks Canada.
She also said that the hot springs would not be sold. “No individual or corporate entity can buy ownership of land in national parks,” she said.
Who’s at fault in skier deaths?
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 sufficient warning.
Taft Conlin was 13 last January when, after one of the 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 negligent 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.
Reading the tea leaves at Tahoe
LAKE TAHOE, Calif.—Both sides involved in proposed real estate expansion of the Homewood Mountain Resort claimed victory after a U.S. District Court judge issued a ruling in early January.
San Francisco-based JRA Ventures wants authority to build a five-star hotel among the several hundred lodging units at the base of the ski area, one of Tahoe’s older-style resorts. Total development has been calculated at $500 million.
The Sierra Sun reports that Judge William B. Shubb agreed with Earthjustice, the legal arm of the Sierra Club, that two local jurisdictions, Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, had improperly failed to analyze whether the company could have proposed a smaller project, while still making money. However, the judge dismissed most of the other contentions of Earthjustice.
To the environmental camp, this represented a victory. To the developer and the regional regulatory agency, it showed they did most everything right, with nothing that can’t now be fixed.
Regulating the whirlybirds
ASPEN, Colo. – Pitkin County commissioners are mulling how to regulate use of helicopters for commercial flying in unincorporated areas.
The Aspen Times reports that commissioners are looking at a simple process for 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.