Chapman Envisions Lift-Served Skiing in Bear Creek
by Gus Jarvis
Jan 24, 2011 | 6503 views | 4 4 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Image 1 / 2
TELLURIDE – Tom Chapman will tell you that one of his main reasons for purchasing mining claims in the upper Bear Creek Basin is the defense of private property rights. But that doesn’t mean he wants the Telluride Ski Area to fail in becoming one of North America’s top destination resorts.

In fact, he says, quite the contrary.

In an interview Monday, Chapman discussed his vision for what Bear Creek could look like in the future. Completed by Chapman with Google Earth satellite technology, the vision lays out the possibilities of an expanded Telluride Ski Area that includes the construction of as many as five new lifts in Bear Creek.

The lifts of Chapman’s imagination include “Lift 17,” which terminates at the top of Palmyra Peak, where skiers could drop straight down Palmyra into Prospect Basin or drop into Lena Basin on the Bear Creek side.

Chapman also envisions a “Lift 18,” which would be a “short traversing side lift over the apex backside of the San Joaquin Masiff” that would “open eyes around the world” to the possibilities of skiing on the backside of Bear Creek’s southernmost ridge. This side- traverse lift would be constructed 40 feet on the backside of the ridge, and would not be seen by summer hikers in upper Bear Creek; nor, because of the distance, would it be seen from Ophir.

From the top of “Lift 18,” there would be another short, behind-the-ridge traversing lift, “Lift 19,” to the top of the ridge at T-12. This lift would, according to Chapman, “rocket the Telluride Ski Area into a top three or so rank in the world – right along with the blue-chip masterpieces in Europe.” To the east, “Lift 19” would open up vast backcountry opportunities; to the north, skiers could drop down toward Bridal Veil Falls.

To bring skiers out of Bear Creek, Chapman envisions the “Nellie Return Lift,” functioning as a return lift to the bottom of Revelation Bowl’s existing Lift 15. This short lift, in combination with the two lifts into the Lena Lake area and Palmyra Peak, would begin “a circuit opening many hundreds of acres of deep powder,” Chapman says. It would also eliminate the ski-out down the Bear Creek Rd. to Telluride, and avoid trespass issues over the Bear Creek Preserve.

In essence, Chapman’s vision is a massive expansion into upper Bear Creek that would deliver skiable terrain unparalleled by that of any other resort in North America.

Despite many locals’ often-expressed doubts that the ski area should be expanded into Bear Creek at all, Chapman said he believes that businesses in Telluride want to be prosperous, and that if the Telluride Ski Area is prosperous, area businesses will prosper, as well.

“If Telluride is to be prosperous and happy, first of all, the ski area has to be prosperous and happy,” Chapman said.

“That’s how it works.”

The success of ski areas depends upon public perception, Chapman said.

In the case of Telluride, he asked, rhetorically: “Are you changing for the better?

"Needless to say," he continued, "that is where [Telski CEO Dave] Riley has been stepping up to the plate. He’s trying to bring Telluride back from being stagnant and from being the status quo.”

Chapman said his vision of Bear Creek might be easy to implement in a perfect world, where there is perfect agreement.

But in the real world, he said, an agreement similar to what he envisions – quite simply, making “the Telluride Ski Area one of the best in the world” – cannot be realized, he suggested, barring participation from landowners in Bear Creek.

“They should be a part of this, and not be excluded from prosperity,” Chapman said.

For now, Chapman lamented, the Gold Hill Development Company, in which he is a partner, can do only what it has the right to do as the owner of mining claims in Bear Creek.

Its claims, including the Modena, Gertrude and Little Bessie parcels in Delta Bowl, were purchased for $246,000 last March.

No plans for the claims have been ruled out, Chapman said, adding that GHDC principal partner Ron Curry is interested in opening a small silver mine on them. Then, too, there is the possibility of building a ski hut, he said. Or even having a mine and a ski hut built together on the lands. Of course, the mine could turn out to be a bust, and devalue the mining parcels; without a thriving ski industry, the ski hut could go bust, as well. But then, perhaps one or both could succeed, and raise the value of the parcels.

Either way, Chapman reiterated his belief that the market should drive the valuation of the land.

“I was hired to level the [playing] field of property rights,” Chapman said. “Mr. Curry is the principal, and he makes all the decisions. He wants to mine. Personally, I don’t care what the value of the property is.”


The first step in calculating the fair market value of GHDC’s claims, Chapman said, is getting access sorted out.

A first step was taken in this direction on Friday, Jan. 21, when GHDC filed a complaint in San Miguel District Court against the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., seeking the right to utilize, maintain, repair and improve the Gold Hill Road.

According to the GHDC complaint, the Gold Hill Road begins in the Town of Telluride and switchbacks southward until it intersects with the ski area’s See Forever Run, then continues southward up to the Gold Hill Ridge, entering into the Bear Creek Basin, where it ends on the Little Bessie Lode.

If the complaint is deemed valid by the court, then maintenance of the road, including winter plowing, could have serious ramifications for some of the ski area’s most popular intermediate runs.

The GHDC claims to have the right to “cross, use, maintain, repair, and improve the Gold Hill Road” where it crosses Telski property, and that while both GHDC and Telski have rights to the use of Gold Hill Road, Telski’s rights are “junior and inferior” to GHDC’s.

Because Telski disputes GHDC’s claim that CHDC can improve or maintain Gold Hill Road, the complaint asks for a judicial determination and declaration of the two parties’ rights and obligations to the Gold Hill Road.

“Right now we have a road that goes to our property, but we can’t put equipment on it to remove rocks for access,” Chapman said. “The next phase is looking at opening up that road.”

GHDC has also filed a series of Colorado open record requests, asking that the county review its own application of the High Country Alpine Zone standards to the construction of the Tempter House and to the Revelation Bowl lifts, including all towers, observation decks and new roads.

“Bear Creek has had those standards for a long time,” Chapman said. “Why was it so easy for Telski to get variances in this zone for these uses, yet a landowner that wants to use their land is restricted?” he asked.

“We intend to execute a series of these open record requests,” he said, for redress. “The first one was executed last Tuesday.”

In 2002 Chapman, representing George Greenberg, the owner of the claims at the time, listed the GHDC parcels for sale at $180,000.

“I tried to sell the property but nobody responded. Nobody gave a rip about the properties. It’s hard to believe there is so much interest in them now,” Chapman said. “I always knew the potential of Bear Creek, and I am absolutely flustered as to why anyone in the community didn’t step forward to acquire those lands.

“My vision for Telluride,” he continued, “is for everyone to be prosperous and happy. I am just saying that the landowners in Bear Creek should not be excluded.”

Citing the pending legal complaint, Riley said he could not comment.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
January 25, 2011
Heritage Plaza-it looks like Chapman has already worked his mojo on it !

Another note-TPTB spent millions on "preserving Bear Creek-but did not bother to buy up the mining claims. The same people were in charge of VF preservation-and I'm sure they may have not bought all the minning claims or water rights.

January 25, 2011
Mr. or Mrs. Pretty Please-

Yep, you are right on the money....

By snapping up some mining claims he has or envisions that he is in some control of the area...but look at the facts...

He has made a legal claim for winter access through the ski area...and unless he wanted a Rule 11 challenge to his lawyer's license he must have formed a reasonable belief that he has access to this area..

He has grand plans..

He stopped the largest economic entity in its tracks...

All for $240k or whatever he paid for the claim...

He is three foot smarter than the town council in Telluride, four foot smarter than anyone over at TMV city hall and the facts speak for themselves on the ski hill...

All this fun for only 240K!...

I mean, Keerist...

The guy is brilliant...hard to argue that while everyone else was beating their chest with the PR people over at Powder magazine this guy was studying the facts, learning the easements, doing the essential work of preparing to win...

Sun Tzu (the Art of War) has nothing on this guy...

Next thing..he will be in Heritage Plaza shutting down something to start another...

January 25, 2011
Chapman solves the financial disaster with happiness ! Just smile and all your problems will be solved !

Lets listen to what he really means-

"Personally I dont care..."

and "My vision for Telluride..." and

"not be excluded from prosperity "

A guy snaps up some mining claims and the next thing you know he is a ski area designer ,and a mine operator and town planner wrapped up in one.

And all you have to do is smile and we'll be prosperous and happy.

You might want Ron Curry to know that the price of silver is very low-so low that a small mining operation would not be prosperous. It may be a moot point -the county allowing mining and traffic through town-besides all the permits and mitigation ?

Chapman sounds like our town council members-their vision is what counts ,not the land owners,community members,or the ski area .

Smile youll get a bonus today !

January 24, 2011
This guy is brilliant.

Bringing up subject application of the rule of law as he examines rubber stamping over at the regulators at the county and the fair maiden Schutza.

Property rights and selective enforcement of the law and regulation...

Five Lifts!

Now that is a Powder story!

Tom Chapman could be the areas hero...

Go Tom Go...bring em to their knees and bring back Bear Creek!