Forest Service and Telski Announce Preseason Closure
by Martinique Davis
Nov 01, 2012 | 2201 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

TELLURIDE – Skiers and snowboarders itching to get back on the Telluride Ski Area’s slopes before the resort opens on Nov. 24 will just have to wait until the lifts start spinning, as the Forest Service and Telluride Ski Resort announced this week that the ski area would once again close to all public traffic starting Monday, Nov. 5.

Both entities cited safety concerns as grounds for the blanket closure of the ski area terrain, which includes all trails on the Mountain Village and Telluride sides of the mountain as well as all upper mountain terrain.

“It’s for the safety of the public and to allow mountain operations to get the mountain ready for the public,” explained Telluride Ski Patrol manager Jason Rogers.

Early season preparations for opening include the use of high-voltage power lines, high-pressure water hoses, a wide array of machinery including witch cats, snowcats, snowmobiles, trucks, and ATVs, as well as explosives. Any of these hazards could be encountered anywhere on the mountain, at any time, in the weeks leading up to the ski area’s opening. Ski Patrol Director Pat Ahern says it is thus important to heed the two-and-a-half week closure.

While the current lack of snow will deter the usual early season ski and snowboard traffic – at least for now – the closure remains in effect for all traffic, including hikers, runners, and bikers.

The Ski Patrol will be conducting its annual Howitzer training program early next week (Nov. 5 and 6,) and will be doing other explosives training later next week as well. Explosives testing could take place anywhere on the mountain, at any time, leading up to opening day, Ahern said.

During last year’s annual Howitzer training, trespassers were discovered in the training area. The two 105-mm Howitzer guns utilized by the Telluride Ski Resort for avalanche control have the ability to place explosives at long range, making for a much safer work environment for the ski patrollers charged with mitigating avalanche hazard in the steep and exposed terrain of upper Gold Hill, Prospect Ridge, and Palmyra Peak. Yet the artillery, on loan from the U.S. Army, presents a grave danger to anyone trespassing in the area during the early-season closure.  

Pending the arrival of snow, early-season avalanches can also be a real hazard to travelers on the ski area’s slopes. Last season, professional extreme skier Jamie Pierre died in an avalanche while skiing yet-to-be-opened Snowbird Ski Area.

“That unconsolidated snow has the potential to avalanche, but people tend to think that since it’s early season, it’s stable,” says Telluride Ski Area’s Snow Safety Director Craig Sterbenz, who has seen his fair share of early season avalanches on Telluride slopes.

Anyone caught in the closure area will be subject to fines and penalties, including loss of skiing privileges at the Telluride Ski Resort. The ski area opens for the 2012/2013 season on Nov. 21, for Donation Day, and officially opens on Thanksgiving.

Ultimately, traveling on the ski area’s slopes during the pre-season closure is simply not worth it, ski patrol’s Ahern says. “There are lots of mountains around here besides this one,” he reminds.

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