Telluride Residents Lose Late-Season Hill Access, Get Pissed Off

Local skiers frustrated by Forest Service closures.

Palmyra Peak, Telluride
Palmyra Peak, Telluride. Photo: Tony Demin
Words: Heather Hansman

April was a slow month for skiers in Telluride. For the first time since the resort opened in the ’70s, when the lifts shut down on April 8th so did skier access to the terrain.

Citing safety as a concern, the Norwood District Ranger Forest Service and the Telluride Ski Resort closed uphill and downhill access to the mountain for the three weeks following the resort closure, and they took it seriously. Violators faced up to a $5,000 fine and loss of their ski pass for the 2012-13 season. The ban ends today, but will pick up again in November before the resort opens for the winter.

This is the first time the mountain has been closed postseason, and locals are unhappy. Resort operations shut down on a 55-inch base and local backcountry skiers, accustomed to having access to the terrain, feel that they’re being boxed out without reason and without the option to voice their concerns.

The Telluride Mountain Club issued a statement saying that, “while we can understand there are some public safety issues to work out, this decision feels like yet another totalitarian rule without any public input.”

The rub, according to the Telluride Daily Planet, is that the decision came with less than a week of notice and that there was no public hearing. San Miguel County Commissioners met Wednesday to discuss the closure and decided that the community should have been notified and given the right to protest. Judy Schutza, the local Forest Service ranger who issued the closure, was invited to the meeting but didn’t show up.

Telluride Ski and Golf CEO Dave Riley said that the resort initiated the closure, listing the risk of human-triggered avalanches and the uptick in workers and maintenance vehicles on the hill as safety concerns.

In a letter to the Forest Service that incited the local government’s involvement longtime resident Mark Frankman said, “In my 35 years of living in Telluride and ski touring on the ski area during spring and fall off-season, I can’t recall one single accident requiring rescue or anything else. The facts and history just don’t support the need for such a sweeping action that will so severely impact the public’s ability to recreate on their national forest lands.”

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