By Tim Mutrie
Published: January 20, 2011

The private landowners at the center of Telluride’s Bear Creek controversy—Tom Chapman and Ron Curry of Gold Hill Development Co.—are suing the Telluride Ski Resort over access to Gold Hill Road.

Though not directly tied to the ongoing fight for public access in Bear Creek (see Trouble in Telluride, Dec. 14, Powder.com.), the lawsuit marks the first legal salvo launched by any party related to the greater “Bear Creek issue,” as the Telluride Daily Planet recently put it. Filed by three attorneys on behalf of Gold Hill DC in Telluride’s San Miguel County District Court on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the suit follows up an earlier promise of legal action by Chapman and Curry against the ski area over Gold Hill Road.

Gold Hill Road climbs south from the town of Telluride, off of San Juan Ave., up through the ski area and eventually into Upper Bear Creek. At the very end of it, five miles or so, lie some 40 acres of old mining claims—in-holdings, largely surrounded by public lands—controlled by Chapman and Curry’s Gold Hill DC. The lawsuit claims Gold Hill DC’s rights to Gold Hill Road are senior to that of the ski area’s. (Locally, Gold Hill Road is known more as a hodgepodge of several roads, and many of them ski area service roads, including the Telluride Trail, Ho Chi Minh and the Wasatch Trail.)

Gold Hill Road “crosses lands owned or administered by the defendant [Telluride Ski Resort]. Plaintiff claims the right to cross, use, maintain, repair and improve the Gold Hill Road where it crosses the defendant’s property,” the lawsuit, a complaint for declaratory relief, reads, in part.

Further, Gold Hill DC asks the court to declare its “right to access via Gold Hill Road across the properties… and order defendants to pay court costs, and for such other and further relief as to the Court seems just and proper.”

Chapman and Curry did not return phone calls today seeking comment from Powder.com. When reached tonight, a spokesperson for Telluride Ski Resort was unaware of the lawsuit and unable to comment.

The suit does not seek monetary damages, though an attorney who reviewed it for Powder.com says the claims may be amended later. “What Gold Hill Development Co. is looking for is an assurance to have a legal right to access their property,” the lawyer said. “It’s kind of a specialized legal proceeding. It’s not uncommon, but it’s not the kind that most people are familiar with.”

Meanwhile, last night at the Last Dollar Saloon in Telluride, about 100 people gathered for a slideshow and fundraiser put together by the Telluride Mountain Club in support of the “Bear Creek issue.” (Other promotional material for the gathering used different verbiage: “Free Bear Creek.”)

“It was a raging drunken party by the time I showed up,” one attendee told Powder.com. “A bunch of slide shows and people partying it up. So, no, I didn’t get much insight into what’s going on with Bear Creek.”