Our View: Steamboat Ski Area’s uphill access policy balances user rights, safety concerns
November 24, 2012
What's happening on the slopes of Mount Werner before sunrise each morning and after the lifts close each afternoon isn't exclusive to Steamboat Ski Area. Resorts across the country are seeing an explosion of skiers and riders embracing equipment that allows them to ascend the steep slopes of ski areas for a wintertime workout, with the grueling uphill exercise then rewarded with the ensuing descent.
Whether using Telemark or Alpine touring (Randonee) ski gear, splitboard snowboard technology or simply snowshoeing, the skiers and riders accessing downhill ski areas all times of day and night are posing a growing safety concern for mountain resorts. Here in Routt County, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. officials recently finalized a new uphill ski policy that attempts to strike a balance between the rights of skiers and riders to access U.S. Forest Service land leased by the ski area and the legitimate safety issues at play when those folks are sharing the slopes with equipment including snowmobiles, snowcats, winch cats and snowmaking guns and hoses.
While not significantly different from uphill ski access policies in place at other resorts across the state, Steamboat Ski Area's newest attempt to mitigate the danger of uphill ski access for skiers and resort employees is a fair, reasoned approach that should be applauded by uphillers. Better yet, anyone who might find himself or herself skinning up Mount Werner throughout the course of the next five months should read and sign the policy, which then entitles them to a free reflective armband to wear while climbing the mountain.
Resort officials have said wearing the armband, and thereby signaling to on-mountain employees that you have read and understand the dangers of uphill access, means those skiers and riders likely will not be interrupted during their journeys up or down the mountain. Those without armbands can expect to be stopped by resort personnel and briefed on the safety concerns.
Among the specific points in the uphill ski access policy worth reminding skiers and riders as we enter the 50th anniversary of Steamboat Ski Area operations:
■ Respect all trail closures, ropes and warning signs.
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■ Stay to the side of trails during daylight hours, and remain visible from above at all times.
■ Consider sticking to these two uphill routes: See Me or Vogue to Jess' Cut-off and then Heavenly Daze; or Right-of-Way to BC Ski Way to So What to Vagabond or Why Not.
■ Dogs are prohibited during the ski area's operating hours and strongly discouraged at all other times.
■ Stay clear of on-mountain operations, particularly winch cat operations.
■ Wear reflective clothing when accessing the ski area at dusk, dawn or during the night.
■ It is illegal to board chairlifts without a valid ski pass. Violators can lose all pass privileges and face prosecution.
We appreciate Ski Corp.'s efforts to improve the awareness and safety of uphill skiers and riders, and the new policy is a balanced, worthwhile effort. Respecting that policy could go a long way toward ensuring full access rights in future years.