Trail Safety Dept., Altered Traffic Patterns and Dedicated Snowmobilers
MOUNTAIN VILLAGE - Safety has been an increasingly primary focus at the Telluride Ski Resort in recent years. For the 2013-2014 winter season, the resort has pushed its emphasis on making the mountain safer for skiers and snowboarders by changing skier traffic on the trails around Chair 4, a main artery that feeds skiers to other portions of the mountain and the scene of many near-misses, collisions and even injuries last season.
The resort also established a new Trail Safety department to educate and enforce its policies on speed and safety. Trail Safety officials are easily identifiable, wearing bright yellow jackets and standing behind neon-orange signage saying ‘SLOW’.
“We’re changing things around Lift 4 because we’re reacting to where incidents occurred and where we think they may potentially occur,” said John Kelly, director of resort services at Telski. “These changes don't stem from abnormally high collisions or near-misses last season.”
Operated as a part of Telski’s Ski Patrol department, Trail Safety workers stand at heavily trafficked portions of the mountain, including the bottom of Lift 4, Lift 5 and at the intersection of Pick ’n Gad and Village Bypass.
Scott Clements, Director of Ski Patrol and Risk Management, said the Trail Safety department serves two functions.
“For one, when they see a guest that is new to the sport they will spend the time needed with them to educate them on rules of the mountain and help them so that the guest gets the most enjoyment out their skiing experience,” said Clements.
But the department's other responsibility has arguably garnered the most attention among visiting and local skiers alike.
“If they observe inappropriate or reckless behavior in individuals who should know better, Trail Safety workers may take a more hardline approach,” Clements explained. “If they have repeat offenders, then they have the authority to take punitive action, such as the revocation of skiing privileges.”
Trail Safety also helps the Ski Patrol and the ski company’s security department better allocate their crews across the mountain.
Last year, facing low snow coverage at the beginning of the season, Telluride’s ski patrollers and security department acted as trail safety enforcers by monitoring crowded areas of the mountain.
For the 2013-2014 ski season, with Clements’ Trail Safety crews monitoring the busiest slopes, ski patrollers and security department officials are free to better disperse their staff across the mountain to respond to incidents.
In an effort to further improve trail safety, Jason Rogers, assistant patrol director, has reduced snowmobile traffic by its patrollers.
Telski has 80 patrollers on staff, and many of them use snowmobiles to travel around the mountain.
Snowmobiles are useful tools for his patrollers, said Clements, but he and Rogers wanted to reduce the risk of near misses or collisions with guests.
“We created five new positions this year; they’re exclusively snowmobiler patrollers,” said Clements. “They’re qualified ski patrollers, but they’re not on skis. These are highly trained users of these machines who have significant experience with them. We’re doing this to limit the snowmobile traffic, which we believe will further reduce the possibility of incidents occurring.”
Changing Traffic Patterns
Last season, the Hoot Brown terrain park near Chair 4 intersected with Butterfly and Misty Maiden, both popular runs among intermediates and Telluride Ski School groups. Terrain park skiers and snowboarders would exit the terrain park at fast speeds onto these trails, sometimes causing near misses and even collisions.
Worsening the danger in this area, terrain park skiers and boarders would sometimes cross-cut the crowded Misty Maiden headwall to access the second entrance to Hoot Brown, the Misty Maiden terrain park or the terrain park near Lift 2.
But starting Christmas week, Hoot Brown will be accessible only via the terrain park’s single entrance to the right of Butterfly, and will only exit near the bottom of Chair 4.
“As soon as Upper Hoot opens, we will close the entry/exit gate to Lower Hoot,” said Kelly. “The only entrance for Hoot will be the top entrance to the right of Butterfly and the only exit will be at the bottom of Lower Hoot, above the base of Lift 4. This should reduce the cross traffic on Misty Maiden.”
As always, added Kelly, the bottom of Chair 4 features multiple ‘slow’ and ‘family ski area’ signs. “We think that ‘family ski area’ is a bit more eye-catching than the other ‘slow ski zone’,” he said.
In other changes in traffic patterns this year, the Nastar slalom course will move to its old home on Competition Hill, and there is now more room for skiers at the intersection of Village Bypass and Peekaboo.
Last year, the Nastar course was located on Butterfly. Racers, like many terrain park skiers, would exit the course at high speeds and ski quickly down the final Misty Maiden headwall.
During the summer, Telski improved its snowmaking capacity. In the course of that work, trees were removed at the intersection of Village Bypass and Peekaboo, inadvertently improving safety at that junction by widening both trails.
“That was a great byproduct of that project, because it opens up that part of the trail and allows for more space for people to ski,” said Kelly.