GUEST COMMENTARY | Is Lift 8 for Town Access to the Mountain, or Just a Cudgel?
by Jim Bedford
Feb 28, 2013 | 1393 views | 1 1 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Once again, I got skunked out on getting up the mountain on lift 8 (Oak St.). It was 11:05 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24, my date was late and lift 8 closed at 11, so it's up the Gondola and the quarter-mile plus pole and skate over to Lower Lookout to get to lift 9 (Plunge lift). So what's the problem with that?

It's big problems for the town, locals and unknowing visitors alike. The ski area owner not opening, and even the sporadic, intermittent opening of lift 8, is stupid, greedy and probably illegal.

Back in the early 80s a number of local citizens sued the ski area to provide promised access to the mountain from downtown. Long before the Gondola (which is primarily a transportation system, not a ski lift), the only way to get up on the ski area was from the edge of town on lift 7 (Coonskin). After a couple of years of back and forth legal wrangling, a hatchet was buried, the ski area committed to building lifts 8 and 9, and the lawsuit was dropped.

Since the building of these lifts in 1985 or so, I believe they, as well as the Telluride Trail, from the top of Coonskin down to the bottoms of lifts 7 and 8, have been open and operating, starting on the Friday before Christmas every year since. But not this year. This year the operation of lift 8, as well as the opening of the Telluride Trail, has been at the arbitrary whim and fiat of the owner of the Telluride Ski Area. First this was said by company lied-to employees to be due to lift maintenance, that is, until the info dribbled out that lift 8's closing was simply due to lack of traffic (code for putting the money it would cost to run it into the pocket of the ski area owner).

Only someone who doesn't ski would subject skiers and boarders to the flat skate and poling needed to get from the top of Coonskin to Lower Lookout so they can get down to lift 9. With fresh snow and a bit of wind in the face (like it was on Thurs./Fri., Feb 21/22), those of us with strength and well tuned skis passed dozens of pissed people, kids, boarders, etc. as they grumbled, skated, poled or walked the trail.

Many people have a contracts with the ski area – they are called passes. You pays your money and you gets a service. This year the ski area arbitrarily changed the traditional service after the year started, without notice to the contract holders.

The region's largest landowner is the Forest Service. They allow the ski area to lease land (for a pittance) that they then restrict public use and charge for access. Before the Forest Service makes changes in their processes they hold open hearings and ask for public input. Like ski area passholders, the Forest Service has a contract with the ski area. What input did they have to the requested closing of lift 8? But wait, did they even get a request?

If the ski area owner can arbitrarily close lift 8 and open the Telluride Trail when he feels like it, what else can he do or not do? Not make snow on the Telluride Trail at all (costs too much), not open lift 8 at all (not enough ridership), not allow skiers from the Telluride side to get off at the top of the Gondola (make them go to the Mt. Village in order to use a lift), stop selling season passes, etc.

It is greatly to the town's benefit and probably their legal responsibility to insure that lift 8 and the Telluride Trail are open as they have traditionally have been starting the Friday before Christmas. If this cannot be done through a simple request, then the town should escalate its efforts to whatever extent necessary to guarantee they be open.

Unless it is temporarily closed for safety or maintenance reasons, lift 8 should be open from the Friday before Christmas until the end of the ski season. Period. There is no other acceptable situation. Period.

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March 04, 2013
Thank you, Jim.

Lift 8 and the trails to Town should be open whenever the ski area is open (subject to snow conditions). In fact lift 8 should operate as a down loading lift when the snow below lift 9 is not adequate.

The 1983 agreement said that the ski area would build and "have available for the use of the public." The agreement needs to be abided by.

Telluride looks like (and is) a 3rd rate ski area when it closes lifts to save money!