Resort Report: Backcountry shutdown, new ‘Noon’ & Snowbowl news

Telluride has canceled its backcountry guiding program into the Bear Creek drainage, citing a "lack of alignment" with private owners of mining claims in the drainage. Plus, Vail's new chair and Snowbowl's wastewater snowmaking victory.

Telluride Ski Resort announced Dec. 1 it is cancelling its backcountry guide program in the Bear Creek drainage, which is located immediately east of the ski area. The resort cited a lack of alignment with private owners of mining claims in the drainage.

The resort was originally encouraged by the U.S. Forest Service to provide a guide service to help manage the growing use of the backcountry area.

“Telluride Ski Resort believed it was providing a much-needed public service, which would help people learn to safely navigate the area,” said CEO Dave Riley. “However, certain owners of mining claims, Irene West, Tom Chapman and Ron Curry, have not accepted our offer to provide insurance and indemnification agreements in return for access privileges across their property.”

Despite numerous attempts to reach out to the private land owners, the resort was unable to get a response. "They literally would not return emails or agree to get together to discuss a solution," said Riley.

Telluride Ski Resort contends that the Chapman mining claims don't cause a barrier to fall line skiing in Bear Creek, but the West mining claim does create a barrier as there is no way to travel down through the drainage from the upper basin to the lower terrain without crossing the West property.

Riley added, “At this stage, it is up to the Forest Service to manage the ever-growing skier traffic in Bear Creek, and coordinate with the private landowners. Without a backcountry guide service, the Telluride Ski Resort has no role in managing the public's use and recreation outside our U.S. Forest Service permit area. The private landowners will also have to deal with thousands of the general public crossing their property each ski season.”

He continued, "It would not surprise me if the next action is for the Forest Service to close the Bear Creek backcountry gates, based on the private landowners' current position. It's clearly a possibility."

Vail to replace a legend with new High Noon Express

Vail’s newest high-speed quad chairlift, the High Noon Express Lift, also known as "Chair 5," is set to officially open for the season on Dec. 10. The new lift features a ride time of six minutes, just half that of the fixed-grip triple chairlift it replaces.


The lift serves Vail’s Back Bowls, which have been part of the ski scene since Vail opened in 1962 with only a gondola out of the village and two chairlifts, including the original lift out of the bowls. Long-time Vail local’s Pepi and Sheika Gramshammer’s inaugural ride up the High Noon Express Lift (#5) will kick off the opening of the High Noon Express Lift and surrounding terrain at 9 a.m.

Pepi was amongst the first to ski the terrain prior to its public opening in December 1962 and will be eternally linked to the long and famous Forever trail, which he skied with Vail pioneers Dick Hauserman, Bob Parker and Morrie Shepard before the lift was installed, remarking that he thought it would take them “forever” to hike back out.

Arizona district court upholds Snowbowl snowmaking

On Dec. 1, a federal judge in Phoenix ruled that the Arizona Snowbowl’s plans to make artificial snow with reclaimed wastewater did not pose health or environmental safety risks.

According to a press release from the ski area, “Snowbowl looks forward to starting construction of the snowmaking system, and plans to proceed in cooperation with the Forest Service once the weather and other conditions permit. The project will benefit Flagstaff as a whole with respect to the creation of construction jobs and an increase in winter visitors once the project is complete.”

--Peter Kray

On Oct. 6, 2010, veteran journalist Peter Kray joined the SNEWS team and is now editor of the new SNEWS WinterSports channel. We trust you are enjoying the full offering of WinterSports news. Be sure to email your friends and let them know the best WinterSports news has arrived -- just in time for the start of the winter season. Got WinterSports news? Send your WinterSports news to Kray at Subscribers can also post WinterSports news releases directly to the SNEWS website. Email us at to learn about posting your own news releases, or for any other questions or comments. We love to hear from our readers!