What is stopping new ski areas from being built?

jmeb

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@tball -- I can respect that position even if I don't agree with it.

I do not think it is hard to argue that backcountry skiing is the greatest good in the long run for the greatest number of people. Every weekend, all lots in the area are full of cars. And carpooling to there is much more common than it would be if it was an inbounds ski area as you typically have a partner to ski BC. The only way you could serve more people at Berthoud pass than are there on an average weekend is via shuttling people to the top of the pass from a parking lot lower down. Or building new parking lots in an area full of avalanche paths and no flat terrain. If Abasin can't get permission to build more parking, I don't see Berthoud having the clout.

I disagree that the primary users of an area are irrelevant. That is against everything I know working with the forest service for years in both climbing and mtb advocacy. Existing users groups typically have a large impact on their decision making process. You say there is a long history of commercial skiing on the pass -- and that is certainly true. But there is just as long of history of backcountry skiing there -- even if the popularity has increased dramatically in recent years.

The Silverton comparison in my eyes fails in many ways: their terrain is very different (having skied both...unless you're talking about putting a chair up No Name peak), Silverton is funded through huge private family money that wants a playground, and they are only open on weekends to guided skiing. Is lift serve skiing at Berthoud economically viable? Likely -- but I don't think Silverton is a good comparison.

Personally I think a low-overhead, low-impact solution that increases accessibility and safety would be ideal. Something like what the folks at Bluebird Backcountry are trying to accomplish. This would improve user safety on the pass through avalanche mitigation, lowers the barrier to entry to utilizing national forest lands in winter by providing rentals and instruction, and does not depend on the stability of a private operator in an industry that is likely to experience real pangs over the next few decades.

We obviously both have vested interests in this, and doubt we will see eye to eye.
 

tball

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@jmeb - We are not that far apart. I'd be happy with the Bluebird Backcountry concept on Berthoud. I hadn't heard of that, thanks.

My biggest thing is avalacche control. I used to be able to ski Berthoud Pass avalanche controlled, now I can't. The prior use was safer than the current use, enough said. It's crazy that the Forest Service took avalanche control away from Berthoud Pass. It's a public safety issue and just a matter of time until someone else dies up there. Each death is on the Forest Service, IMO. It's a deadly honeypot when you don't really have to earn your turns because most the vertical is in a car.

I love to see the Forest Service put out an RFP for both Berthoud and Loveland Passes. The only firm requirement is avalanche control and patrol. See what comes back and pick the best. Maybe it's lifts, maybe cats, or maybe human powered w/shuttles or some combo. The current situation is nuts and should be fixed. There's a business there that would both provide the greatest good and save lives.
 
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raisingarizona

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A small percentage of back country recreators die while recreating. That’s reality. Is it really adventure if you eliminate all risk? Nope.

Berthoud has closed and opened a number of times proving that a managed ski area there probably doesn’t work. If you want safety then go to other places.

People die every day while commuting to their job but no one is trying to outlaw car driving. Comparatively the numbers of people dying while skiing are basically nothing.

Shit happens folks, get over it.
 

jmeb

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Berthoud has closed and opened a number of times proving that a managed ski area there probably doesn’t work.
This is a case with the regional context of the ski area has changed dramatically. When Berthoud closed last the Front Range had over 20% less people in it. That's a big increase in local skiers. Not to mention the evolution of skis which have made skiing deep ungroomed snow much more enjoyable for the less skilled. Still there are real logistical challenges of running a ski area.

Each death is on the Forest Service, IMO. It's a deadly honeypot when you don't really have to earn your turns because most the vertical is in a car.
I disagree here. The skiable vertical without hiking at Berthoud is quite limited, and only is really a couple runs. It is not "most the vertical" of skiing in that area. Loveland has main line which is longer, but low angle and has not had a reported death in over 20 years. The zones where people die are zones people hike to (Sheep creek, the only avalanche deaths on Loveland pass since 1999 is a hike-to only zone), and putting those on the forest service you could then make the same argument for any easily accessible BC skiing area.

The current situation is nuts and should be fixed. There's a business there that would both provide the greatest good and save lives.
Again, I think this is a misrepresentation. Berthoud Pass is the most popular backcountry skiing area in Colorado. Despite that, the last avalanche fatality was in 2011. In the past 20 years of recreation there, there have been 2. That this is situation is "nuts" when you can find similar numbers of avalanche deaths inbounds at resorts doesn't stand up to empirical scrutiny in my opinion.
 
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tball

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I disagree here. The skiable vertical without hiking at Berthoud is quite limited, and only is really a couple runs. It is not "most the vertical" of skiing in that area. Loveland has main line which is longer, but low angle and has not had a reported death in over 20 years. The zones where people die are zones people hike to (Sheep creek, the only avalanche deaths on Loveland pass since 1999 is a hike-to only zone), and putting those on the forest service you could then make the same argument for any easily accessible BC skiing area.
Yeah, there isn't much to ski without hiking, but he hikes on Berthoud are minimal. Maybe 5 minutes on the east side and 20 minutes on the east side? I did them a few times after the ski area closed, then somebody got hurt in a slide and somebody else died and I pretty much decided to stay inbounds since. I'm not afraid to hike. I do longer hikes than Berthoud inbounds all the time. I'm afraid to die in a slide.

I just don't see Berthoud as backcountry skiing at all. It's a closed ski area with extreme terrain and some of the most snow in Colorado, and it's no longer avalanche controlled beyond what CTOD does to protect the highway. Crazy. I believe all the deaths up there are all on named runs of the former ski area, or just outside the boundaries of the former ski area. Those people would be alive today if it was still a ski area.
Again, I think this is a misrepresentation. Berthoud Pass is the most popular backcountry skiing area in Colorado. Despite that, the last avalanche fatality was in 2011. In the past 20 years of recreation there, there have been 2. That this is situation is "nuts" when you can find similar numbers of avalanche deaths inbounds at resorts doesn't stand up to empirical scrutiny in my opinion.
Does anybody know how many have died on Berthoud Pass since the ski area was closed? I know there was one early on, then a couple deaths back around 2011. These were all at a ski area that was closed by the Forest Service partly because they claimed it couldn't be controlled. I don't believe anyone ever died in an avalanche when it was a ski area. I think somebody got caught in an inbounds slide giving the FS the basis for that argument. It's been a long time. Somebody, please correct me if I'm wrong or you recall more details.

I'd love to see Jason Blevins of the Colorado Sun write an expose about the lunacy on Berthoud and Loveland Passes. The Forest Service should be exposed for the danger to public safety they have created on those passes. There is a better way. Those passes can and should be skied safely.
 
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jmeb

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I don't believe anyone ever died in an avalanche when it was a ski area.
This is also wrong -- at least according to the former Berthoud patroller and owner/operator that was at the "Abandoned" premiere and answered questions after the show.
 

jmeb

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My last time arguing about this....

I just don't see Berthoud as backcountry skiing at all.
That can be your view. But the view of everyone who backcountry skis, teaches an AAIRE class, or works in avalanche control is that any skiing you do outside of a controlled, and the patrolled area is backcountry skiing. Hence the massive efforts to try to do away with terms like "sidecountry" or "slackcountry" which underplay the risks as if they are not backcountry.

Maybe 5 minutes on the east side and 20 minutes on the east side?
Maybe if you're a skiMo racer. On the east side, its a 550' vertical lap to the top of the trees (another 400' if you go all the way up the windblown peak). I'm a relatively fit backcountry skier and that take approximately 25 minutes to skin up in light AT gear. The West side from the parking lot is 500' to the top, but longer and take approximately 30 minutes for a fit AT skier. If you don't believe me I'm happy to supply my Garmin tracking log from last weekend.

I just don't see Berthoud as backcountry skiing at all. It's a closed ski area with extreme terrain and some of the most snow in Colorado, and it's no longer avalanche controlled beyond what CTOD does to protect the highway. Crazy. I believe all the deaths up there are all on named runs of the former ski area, or just outside the boundaries of the former ski area. Those people would be alive today if it was still a ski area.
Both deaths were outside the areas that were ever lift served. (Both were accessed by cats at various times). They occurred in naturally existing "trails" (aka slide paths).
 

tball

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2. It's on the CAICs website which goes back to 1999, and the area closed in 2001.
Yes, thanks. From skyhinews.com:

It was just over one full year earlier that Grand County had witnessed its then most recent avalanche death, on Jan. 17, 2011.

On that day, 26-year-old Jeff Miller, an employee of Smokin' Moe's in Winter Park at the time, headed up into the Hell's Half Acre area of Berthoud Pass near The Fingers on the High Trail Cliffs. Miller, his dog and a friend were headed for the Sevenmile ski trail when a relatively small avalanche separated the group.

It was several hours before Miller's companion realized his friend had not made it down the mountain and initiated a search of the area. Miller was not wearing an avalanche beacon at the time, making it difficult to locate his body.

Searchers recovered his body two days later, after forming a probe line to systematically search the area.

The area of Berthoud Pass that claimed Miller's life is extremely dangerous for backcountry skiers.

Just a few 100 yards away, and a little over five years earlier, a 32-year-old Denver man named Samuel Raymond Teetzen was snowboarding in the same vicinity, slightly northeast of the High Trail Cliffs near Mines 2. Teetzen and a group of his friends were getting some early season backcountry turns in on Nov. 7, 2005 when an avalanche was triggered. Teetzen was not wearing an avalanche beacon when he was buried and his body was not recovered for roughly two hours.
https://www.skyhinews.com/news/sleeping-giants-grand-county-enjoys-5-years-without-avalanche-fatalities-though-danger-lurks/

Haven't there also been some deaths nearby where folks crossed out of the ski area boundary?

There have also been a bunch of Berthoud skiers caught in slides and got lucky, or not and were seriously injured.

This is also wrong -- at least according to the former patroller and owner/operator that was at the "Abandoned" premier and answered questions after the show.
Yes, but were they on open terrain? I'm pretty sure they crossed the rope outside the ski area boundary.
 

jmeb

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Yes, but were they on open terrain? I'm pretty sure they crossed the rope outside the ski area boundary.
According to the patroller they were within the open area. As we know, avalanches happen inbounds. Avalanche control is not an exact science.

Haven't there also been some deaths nearby where folks crossed out of the ski area boundary?
Not since CAIC has data. There are no recorded avalanche deaths in First or Zero creeks since the area closed (the only spots you could get to via Mary Janes gates).
 

tball

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From Lou Dawson after the 2005 death on Berthoud Pass:

I sincerely pray that the ski and snowboard culture on Berthoud pass changes to a safer approach. Why it has gotten to this point is beyond me. A cultural anomaly that saddens and even embarrasses me.
https://www.wildsnow.com/36/backcountry-skiing-avalanche-death/
I know Friends of Berthoud is doing good work to change the culture. They are also fighting a losing battle against increasing numbers and increasing idiocy from what I hear. I think it's hard to argue that the situations on Berthoud and Loveland passes are not nuts and something shouldn't change to make them safer.
 

jmeb

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I understand your concern but what you hear is at odds with what I see at the pass.

As for Lou. He can have his opinions all he wants about the "culture" and "anomaly" that Berthoud is. Meanwhile, his area / culture around him in the Roaring Fork Valley has three times the number of avalanche deaths over the last 20 years (6 in Grand County, 18 in Pitkin). With a much smaller backcountry skiing community.
 

tball

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According to the patroller they were within the open area. As we know, avalanches happen inbounds. Avalanche control is not an exact science.
That fatality must have been before my time. The death I remember was somebody outside Hell's Half Acre on a huge day. I think he crossed the rope but maybe went out the gate and never should have been out there. People made bad choices back then, too.

As I recall, Berthoud Patrol was a shoestring operation trying to control very difficult terrain, to say the least. They were far from doing control work at the level of the best practices we see today. I think a reopening that focuses primarily on avalanche control and safety really makes sense.

How much would they have to charge for just avalanche control, ski patrol, and shuttle buses?

Would $50/car for parking anywhere on the pass cover it? Or, $25 for parking and $25 for a shuttle pass? No need for a lodge. Bring a food truck up from Empire. If there isn't enough parking to support the economics, run shuttles up from Berthoud Falls with free parking down there and charge for parking up top.

I really believe there are business models that can make skiing safe on Berthoud and Loveland Passes. And, back to the point of this thread provide additional inbounds skiing capacity where it is needed.
 

sparty

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I really believe there are business models that can make skiing safe on Berthoud and Loveland Passes. And, back to the point of this thread provide additional inbounds skiing capacity where it is needed.
That belief is provably false. Skiing is not (and IMO should not be) safe. It is an inherently risky sport.

Mitigating risk is a worthwhile consideration, but there's a big difference between identifying and mitigating risks and making the activity safe. I'm not convinced that attempting to provide control work and patrol in a non-lift-served alpine venue is a particularly helpful form of mitigation, either; the presence of those services may increase demand, or tilt the user group more towards in-bounds skiers who are less-prepared to help themselves and their ski/ride partners when things go sideways.

I'm only aware of one non-lift-served alpine ski patrol in the U.S., and that's the Mt. Washington Volunteer Patrol (at Tuckerman Ravine, NH). They assist in user education and first aid/evac there with some success, and I don't think their presence draws more idiots, but that's still several miles from the trailhead to the ravine and not roadside access (nor do they do any control work).

I can't speak to capacity and demand in those places specifically, but it's important to keep in mind that displacing car-assisted, $0-admission backcountry skiing with lift-served skiing (or even pay-to-park shuttle skiing) is going to push some of those users out of that area and cause them to look for other places to recreate. I'm guessing here, but I'd expect that those areas are popular precisely because they meet a demand for easy-access, non-lift-accessed skiing.

Philosophically, the National Forest should be seeking to provide access to various user groups, including both lift-served skiers and lazy backcountry skiers (as well as more motivated backcountry skiers, sled-access skiers, slednecks, cross-country skiers, loggers, hunters, etc.), and I'm fairly sure that the "land of many uses" credo is meant to convey that.
 

jmeb

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tilt the user group more towards in-bounds skiers who are less-prepared to help themselves and their ski/ride partners when things go sideways.
This is a big question I think. Yes there are lots of bozos skiing abandoned ski areas like Berthoud. But the vast majority of users I interact with there have safety gear, know how to use it, and are making thoughtful bc decisions.

If you don't actually ski at these areas its easy to mis-identify trends as you only see the people standing beside the road without gear hitch hiking. You don't see the dozens of parties doing beacon checks up the skin track, digging pits, skiing very conservative lines, etc because that is all away from the road.
 

raisingarizona

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@jmeb - We are not that far apart. I'd be happy with the Bluebird Backcountry concept on Berthoud. I hadn't heard of that, thanks.

My biggest thing is avalacche control. I used to be able to ski Berthoud Pass avalanche controlled, now I can't. The prior use was safer than the current use, enough said. It's crazy that the Forest Service took avalanche control away from Berthoud Pass. It's a public safety issue and just a matter of time until someone else dies up there. Each death is on the Forest Service, IMO. It's a deadly honeypot when you don't really have to earn your turns because most the vertical is in a car.

I love to see the Forest Service put out an RFP for both Berthoud and Loveland Passes. The only firm requirement is avalanche control and patrol. See what comes back and pick the best. Maybe it's lifts, maybe cats, or maybe human powered w/shuttles or some combo. The current situation is nuts and should be fixed. There's a business there that would both provide the greatest good and save lives.
Wtf? The forest service doesn’t owe you anything and those deaths are not their fault. That might be the lamest thing I’ve ever read on here, I mean holy crap your sense of entitlement is ridiculous.

Avalanche mitigation is really expensive and FS funds are being stretched further and further with fire suppression efforts.
 

pais alto

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@jmeb the Forest Service mission is to provide "the greatest good of the greatest number in the long run." I think it's hard to argue that's not lift-served skiing on Berthoud.
Point of order, ^That is not the Forest Service mission. I don’t know where you got your interpretation, but this is the FS mission:
"To sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations."
https://www.fs.fed.us/about-agency/what-we-believe

Nothing about the greatest good for the greatest number. That leaves the re-establishment of lift-served skiing at Berthoud off the “must-do” list.
 
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jmeb

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@pais alto -- can you clarify a bit? Are you saying Berthoud pass must be lift-served for diversity reasons?

If anything, an area designated for human-powered skiing with avalanche control and patrol would be a more diverse offering than another lift-served ski resort on private land. Currently, no such bc-skiing experience exists, while there are a dozen-plus lift-served ski areas in Colorado alone.
 

pais alto

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@pais alto -- can you clarify a bit? Are you saying Berthoud pass must be lift-served for diversity reasons?

If anything, an area designated for human-powered skiing with avalanche control and patrol would be a more diverse offering than another lift-served ski resort on private land. Currently, no such bc-skiing experience exists, while there are a dozen-plus lift-served ski areas in Colorado alone.
What? No. I’m saying the FS doesn’t owe anyone lift-served skiing at BP. Not specifically covered but I don’t think they owe bc skiers avy control or patrolling.

That bolding of “ diversity” was from the website where I copied it. I edited it out.
 

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