Telski Seeks Public Comment on Delta Bowl Expansion, New Lift
by Gus Jarvis
Oct 26, 2010 | 4685 views | 11 11 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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Thomas Chapman Threatens Superior Use of Gold Hill Road

TELLURIDE – As the Telluride Ski and Golf Co. inches closer to developing a new master plan for the Telluride Ski Area, an online survey has been posted that asks the question of whether or not the master plan should include a boundary/terrain expansion into upper Bear Creek’s Delta Bowl that would include a new fixed cable chairlift.

A new lift and the Delta Bowl terrain, as described in the survey, would be accessed by a new surface lift running from the top of Revelation Lift to the Gold Hill Summit. This would provide access onto the east face of the Gold Hill Summit into Delta Bowl, which would provide intermediate and advanced terrain.

The survey comes after TSG Asset Holding, LLC purchased the 4.11-acre Dandy Lode parcel last April for $24,700.

According to the survey, a “unique combination of factors would allow for construction of the lift without significant impact.” These factors include a summer service road that is already built to the top terminal location, and an existing mining road to the lower terminal station that would “require a minimum of earthwork during construction.” The survey also states that underground power is also very close at the top of Revelation Lift and that no trees would need to be cut to install the new lift.

The survey, which can be found at, asks those who participate in the survey to choose between one of three choices: “I support the construction of a Delta Bowl lift and permit boundary expansion, I do not support the construction of a Delta Bowl lift and permit boundary expansion or I don’t know.”

“This is clearly a thumbs-up or thumbs-down type of question on whether you support it or don’t support it,” Telski CEO Dave Riley said Tuesday, adding that the survey Telski conducted last summer had this lift included in it, but this survey has more details about the project. “We thought it would be beneficial to give more details about the project and to get a clear response on it.”

The survey comes just as the snow begins to fly in Telluride with the 2010-2011 season on the horizon. Commercial expansion and to, some extent, even allowing public access into the Bear Creek Basin, is already a contentious issue.

Already, the survey has sparked sharp criticism from Thomas Chapman, who is a partner in the Gold Hill Development Co., which purchased three contiguous mining claims in Bear Creek last March for $246,000. In an email to the U.S. Forest Service Tuesday and several media outlets on Tuesday, Chapman said the proposed lift in the survey avoids his private lands along with others, but what won’t work is skiing through Delta Bowl.

“The [Gold Hill Development Company’s] Little Bessie parcel occupies the center of the Delta Bowl,” Chapman stated. “What won’t work is skiing from anyplace on Gold Hill Ridge down through Lena Basin or through the Delta Bowl and then down through the Modena, Gertrude, or Little Bessie to get back on the chairlift.”

Riley sees it differently.

“Where you see the lift on the picture, it is all on Forest Service land,” Riley said. “You can ski laps on that lift without crossing that private land. Yes, there are mining claims in that area, but it is possible to ski that area without crossing over private land.”

Chapman has a reputation for controversial real-estate transactions in which he buys private in-holdings surrounded by or near adjacent public lands and then threatens to develop them in order to force high-priced sales or land trades with the federal government; Chapman demurs, however, that he is first an advocate for private property rights. In the case of Bear Creek and the Forest Service’s decision to keep public access gates open to back country skiers, Chapman is most concerned is about liability – who is liable if someone dies in an avalanche on a private parcel of land that was accessed through a Forest Serve access gate?

“The landowners have every right to sit here and complain about this,” Chapman said in an interview on Tuesday. “The town says it’s not liable. The county says it’s not liable. It’s a Forest Service problem. You think anyone can sue the Forest Service? No. So who do you think get sued here? First it will be the landowner anywhere near the accidental death site. So will Telski. They are kidding themselves if they don’t believe they will be held liable.”

Chapman said the Gold Hill Development Co. plans to reopen the various mines in its 100-plus acres of land in the area, as well as open an eco-tourism facility on the Modena Parcel. With that, he said, the company plans to open the historic Gold Hill Road from Telluride, beginning at the intersection of South Oak and San Juan Avenue all the way to the Little Bessie mine dump.

Chapman said the company has a superior right to use the Gold Hill Road that crosses through various parts of the Telluride Ski Area. If Telski will agree to honor the Gold Hill Development’s senior rights to the use of Gold Hill Road without going through a federal court process, Chapman said the company will sit down with Telski to mitigate the use of that road.

“We have the right to go up there and plow it off,” Chapman said. “Our right to maintain that road will be 24-seven, 365 days a year. If they agree that we have a superior right to cross through their properties on that road, then will sit down to mitigate the results of using that road. There are things, like only using a track machine in the winter, that could be done to mitigate the effects of the use of that road.”

“Our intention is to be a good neighbor with the ski area and the Town of Telluride and we are simply asking people to consider what they are doing here with this survey,” Chapman said.

It is not clear whether Chapman could, in fact, plow the road, since San Miguel County’s High Country zoning prohibits both improvements to existing roads and plowing.

County Planner Mike Rozycki on Wednesday said he is uncertain on the status of Gold Hill Road at this time but that it was not identified by the Road and Bridge Superintendent or designated by the San Miguel Board of County Commissioners as a public High Country Road at the time the High Country Zone District was implemented.

The county’s Land Use Code policies and the provisions in the High Country Zone state that it is the intent of the zone to prohibit both public or private improvements on existing public roads within the district as well as prohibit the construction of new roads within the district. Existing private roads within the High Country Alpine Zone are considered to be private existing driveways.

“I would need to have more information or do more research concerning the status of Gold Hill Road and then review that information against the provisions of the HCA, and the identified Ecological Sensitive Areas for Watershed Protection which prohibit snow plowing and maintenance from Nov. 1 through May 1,” Rozycki stated in an email to The Watch.

Because of any pending legal actions, Riley did not want to comment on the right to use the Gold Hill Road.

Chapman wants to make it clear that he understands what Riley and the ski area are trying to keep Telluride a successful resort town.

“Without the ski area, Telluride is pretty much the same as Lake City. It doesn’t have a strong economy,” he said. “Anyone who talks to me is always going to get the same story though. It’s always a bad idea to push private landowners aside as if they do not exist.”

This story has was updated at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 27, to reflect additional reporting related to the possible influence of San Miguel County zoning on the issues raised.
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October 29, 2010
HeyDuke-Its Cactus Ed here; yes, the comments should go to Judy but Judy, like I said in Desert Solitaire, is sposed to expand, spoil, sell, exploit-

IF you want to stop this you will need Judy's supervisor..the US Congress...

Simple as that.

(But like the Arches, BC will be lifted...)

October 29, 2010
My opinion may be difficult to comprehend for a town that unconstitutionally envokes eminent domain however I agree with face & to a degree Chapman. Regardless of which side of the fence your on one thing is certain, the NFS has a responsibility to the public and instead of filling out a survey for a privately held company your opinion should go directly to the NFS at both the local and national levels:

Norwood Judy Schutza, District Ranger; P.O. Box 388, 1150 Forest Street, Norwood,

CO 81423; 970-327-4261, Fax 970-327-485

or email to:

Tom Tidwell
October 28, 2010
Colorado water right law is very clear, the water that falls on a property owners land does not belong to the land owner.

Skiers only navigate across a body of water that does not belong to the land owner, that is not trespassing.
October 28, 2010
Seems to me this would be the perfect opportunity for the NFS to take a stand and simply say "OK, you have your land ... do with it as you please" and simply not grant an expansion to the ski resort. There's only a conflict for the NFS if there's a need to consolidate and protect contiguous blocks of land or some other application (i.e. ski area expansion).

While some might see a ski area expansion into BC as some sort of foregone conclusion, the NFS hardly has to see it through such a myopic lens. In fact, maybe a "complicating factor" such as the private inholding might be sufficient grounds to tell the ski area to come back to us when you have a better plan.

Without such an impetus, there's no "crisis" & it's basically a non-issue and goes away ... and thus nothing to get worked up about. Moreover, it would serve as a precedent for other similar situations; essentially allowing the NFS to say "we will not negotiate with _______".

October 28, 2010
Ps. Lets let Chapman maintain access to his property-we need the jobs.If it snows alot he'll have to hire lots of shovelers and plowmen. Five guys or gals ,40 hours a week-he'll be adding to our tax base -I cant think of a better way for Chapman to spend money. After a couple hundred grand he may not want to fake access to his property and move on to the next public taking.
October 28, 2010
Boo Hoo-Chapman has to be responsible for his personal property. Sometimes you play chess sometimes checkers-Looks like Chapman is at the checkers table this time.

MIning operations kicking up in town?Yeah, just as soon as the down valley uranium mill that has been mitigated will be cranked up into operation.

Idle threats from a checkers player who's in check-the only thing Chapman has is to say WE better understand what we think about the survey-thats a really strong threat-what else have you got?

Chapman bought what he thought was a blockade-but it isn't. If People end up dead or hurt on his property-maybe he will get sued. When you buy property in the area you may notice the mountains have skiers and hikers all over them, it comes with the territory.

Private ownership has many responsibilties and he'll have to care for his property like the rest of us . Chapmans pawn has been spent and now he'll have to play the private property ownership game like the rest of us.He thought it would be easy to extort us and be on his way-I say lets make him part of our town and make him keep up his private property like the rest of us. Welcome Chapman enjoy your stay !
October 27, 2010
Chapman should allow avalanch remediation on his properties if he is worried about liability. This is not rocket science.
October 27, 2010
Hurry Dave-

I see that Gold Hill Development is behind on the property taxes of $30/year...see the TDP listing of folks who lost their tax bill

More than one way to skin the cat..
October 27, 2010
"It’s always a bad idea to push private landowners aside as if they do not exist.”

Dear Mr. Chapman....

Do you believe this is true for those who purchase inholdings in public lands with the precise purpose of extorting the public? Perhaps those who engage in such nefarious practices should, in fact, be pushed aside.
October 27, 2010
These easement lawsuits are really esoteric. The facts are never that clear, the law less clear and then you have the judge and jury.

My bet is that TSG works something out with their neighbor Mr. Chapman.
October 27, 2010
2011 Professional Mixed Martial Arts Cage Fighting SuperBout Announced! Chapman v. Riley