TELLURIDE – When the chairlifts stop turning on the Telluride Ski Resort this Sunday, it isn’t just lift-accessed skiing that will end for the season. All hiking, skiing, and riding within the ski area boundaries will be strictly prohibited until the end of the month, per Telluride Ski and Golf and U.S. Forest Service policy.
“The USFS and Telluride Ski Resort have a growing concern for the public’s safety and well-being, as avoidable incidents have been occurring throughout the country,” the company said in a press release.
From April 9 to 30, hiking or skiing is prohibited within the ski area boundaries due to closing operations and ski area maintenance. These policies are in place for public safety and the safety of mountain employees, the company states.
This restriction also applies from Nov. 5 to opening day of the 2012-13 winter season.
“Closing, opening and summer maintenance operations, including the presence of heavy equipment, machine traffic, high voltage and high pressure lines, variable conditions and the lack of any resort or patrol services makes illegal access very risky for public safety during these time periods,” the release states.
While the ski area has long discouraged travel on ski area trails in the weeks following the ski area’s closing and during the weeks before the ski area opens, the public has not exactly heeded those recommendations. And it isn’t just powder-hungry skiers and boarders huffing it up the hill for a few last turns that have raised concerns. Evidence that the public has taken snowmobiles and other motorized vehicles onto ski area trails in recent years has forced the ski company and Forest Service to take a harder line against those violating non-operation season access restrictions.
As per the 2002 Uncompahgre National Forest Travel Plan for the Telluride Ski Resort, no public motorized vehicles are permitted, outside of company equipment, at any time – not just during the special access restriction windows noted above. This includes, but is not limited to, snowmobiles, ATVs, motorcycles and automobiles.
Signs indicating access restrictions and warning of penalties will be placed conspicuously at the ski resort’s base areas near the gondola and the Coonskin Lift in Telluride, and in the Meadows and Mountain Village Core in Mountain Village. Enforcement is expected to be much firmer this spring and into the future, with ski area employees and Forest Service personnel attentive to the outlined policies, which are governed by USFS Travel Management Special Order and the resort operating plan. Penalties for violation include loss of access to the ski area for a minimum of one year and Federal fines of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.
“We look forward to a safe spring, summer and start to next year, with all of our locals healthy and ready to enjoy the ski season,” said Telski CEO Dave Riley.