Crested Butte establishes new rules for access to extreme terrain
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A spate of in-bounds avalanche accidents and deaths the past few years — involving both ski area workers and recreational skiers — may be starting to spur operational changes, as some ski areas are looking at new ways to manage avalanche risks.
Following a ski patrol death at Jackson Hole last season, ski patrollers at the Wyoming resort will wear floatation devices when doing avalanche control on high hazard routes. And in December, Crested Butte announced new guidelines for access to the Extreme Limits terrain, designed to create more awareness about the risks of skiing and riding in extreme terrain.
“While snow safety and mitigation efforts reduce the risk of avalanches, slides may still occur at ski areas, both inside and outside posted boundaries. Avalanches are an inherent risk of the sport due to the nature of snow and its presence on steep mountainous terrain, the ski area said in a press release.
Ski patrollers at Crested Butte will control the flow of traffic into certain areas to reduce the chances that skiers down-slope get caught in a slide triggered by others higher on the mountain.Additionally, the resort will give first crack at fresh terrain openings to skiers and riders with avalanche beacons. Some lifts will have a line dedicated to riders wearing beacons, and in other places, patrollers will check skiers and riders for beacons.
The ski area’s statement marks a startling departure from standard ski area protocol of recent years, but it’s not unprecedented. Back in the 1990s, Wolf Creek Ski Area required skiers and riders to wear beacons for accessing some terrain, and Taos Ski Valley used to have a semi-formal check-in procedure for skiers accessing some of the hike-to terrain off the high ridges.
Crested Butte execs said the new policies haven’t changed the resort’s commitment to mitigating the in-bounds avalanche danger. The changes are designed to add an extra level of protection, “based on the reality that no avalanche mitigation can eliminate 100 percent of the risk.”
Filed under: avalanches, Colorado, recreation, ski industry, Ski Resorts, skiing and riding Tagged: | Colorado skiing, Crested Butte, inbounds avalanches, Summit County Colorado, Summit County News, Taos