The Mountain Quail run, located beyond Genevieve trail in the hike-to terrain off of Prospect Bowl lift, has opened for guided skiing for the first time ever this winter. Visiting writers, photographers and media personnel for national and regional ski publications have already explored the terrain, but the first actual group of guided public skiers will take the plunge into the outer limits of the ski area boundary soon. Last week's scheduled Mountain Quail tour was cancelled due to low visibility and snowy conditions, but more trips are in the works for skiers and riders craving the taste of fresh turns in Telluride.
Mountain Quail is the highest point on Prospect Ridge. After an approximately 30-minute hike from the top of lift 12, this northwest-facing chute rewards skiers and boarders with plenty of face shots and untracked powder turns. Two members of the Telluride Ski Patrol and at least one ski instructor will guide trips to Mountain Quail. Every member of the party will be equipped with an avalanche beacon and shovel, provided by the resort, and follow avalanche protocol as outlined by the ski patrol in a safety orientation prior to the hike.
Offering in-bounds guided skiing on Mountain Quail is the first step in considering opening the terrain for non-guided hike-to skiing in the future, explains Telluride Ski Patrol Director Gary Richard.
"This is an experimental project that is done at a lot of resorts prior to opening new terrain," says Richard. Taking skiers out to the new terrain in a guided, controlled environment will allow the ski patrol to get a better understanding of the specific characteristics of the new area, as well as some of the challenges the ski area may face if it opens the terrain for non-guided skiing. The ski patrol has already logged hundreds of hours of snow safety and terrain analysis research in the area and will continue its study with this season's guided tours.
If Mountain Quail were ever to open for non-guided skiing, Richard assures that the ski patrol would still keep a close watch on the terrain.
"It's going to be about the powder experience," he says of the new run, "not rock-hard bumps. It would be something that we would open up only when the conditions were right, and once it got tracked-out, we would probably close it again. But we'll just have to wait and see how [the guided tours] work out."
To participate in a guided Mountain Quail tour you must be an expert skier or boarder. Cost is $75 per person and reservations must be made at least 24 hours in advance. Group sizes are limited to 12 guests with two patrollers for every four guests to ensure safety and preserve snow quality. Trips are completely weather and snow condition dependent.
"This guided terrain is both challenging and exceptionally beautiful," says Jeff Proteau, vice president of operations for the ski resort. "We can assure our participating guests an unforgettable guided backcountry experience."