Going into the backcountry appeals to many. (Snowmass/Facebook)
Recent efforts by ski and snowboard resorts and towns to penalize those who go illegally under the ropes reached fruition when Snowmass issued fines to four skiers who went into a closed area.
The quartet of skiers were fined $250 each under an ordinance in the Village of Snowmass municipal code – the first such action under the village code since the fine was raised by $100 this Jan. 1.
Ski patrol at the Colorado mountain caught two pairs of skiers who went into KT Gully while it was closed Feb. 16 for avalanche control. A pair of teenaged skiers from nearby Rifle were apprehended around 10 a.m. in the morning and, about 45 minutes later, another two skiers from Brazil were caught in the same area, according to police reports.
The skiers from Rifle had their season passes pulled and will be required to meet with ski patrol officials in an attempt to get them back. The Brazilians had their day tickets clipped off.
KT Gully is located in the upper mountain Cirque area, a collection of gullies and glades that are among the steepest and most challenging on the mountain. Ski patrol had roped off the area after heavy snowfall for avalanche control including use of explosive to trigger slides prior to allowing skiers and riders into the area.
Managers at ski and snowboard resorts across the West have been grappling about how to deal with the problem of unauthorized skiing and riding in either closed in-bounds areas, or out-of-bounds backcountry beyond mountain boundaries – predominately on U.S. Forest Service land. Several states and many ski towns have enacted or discussed laws to curb the activity and charge violators with fines or fees.
Last season, Steamboat Resort initiated a $500 fee that would be charged to anyone who had to be rescued by members of the Steamboat ski patrol. Steamboat’s Loryn Kasten told SnoCountry.com that one fee has been assessed this season.
The rising popularity of backcountry skiing and ‘boarding has put more people out beyond where ski patrollers normally go. At Steamboat, officials estimated that up to 500 people may go into the off-piste Fish Creek area in a single day.