The Telluride Ski Resort is apparently moving in the direction to request a consideration of an expansion of the Telluride Ski Area into Bear Creek (beyond the newly installed Revelation Bowl lift) and has already initiated a “snow/avalanche study” last season to harvest information on route to such an goal.
According to the Telluride Ski Resort website, the following is a breakdown of “Trail Difficulty”:
41% Advanced / Expert
Too bad the Telluride Ski Resort doesn’t qualify or break down the “Advanced / Expert” category further; however, I will go on record with a first hand anecdotal account that Telluride offers up a wide selection of single and double black diamond trails — ranging from long sustained steep bump runs to very steep runs embedded within a wide array of extreme terrain. Most recently, the Telluride Ski Resort has opened up most of the upper Gold Hill chutes and all the terrain along the prospect ridgeline up to Palmyra Peak. The newly opened terrain is hike-to access and requires extensive avalanche control work by ski patrol. In fact, the Telluride Ski Are recently invested in a howitzer to assist to this end. In other words, for the expert skier or snowboarder, Telluride is ALREADY THERE in terms of having more than enough variety and acreage to satiate even the most die-hard enthusiast.
Currently, there is an access gate into Bear Creek above the Revelation Bowl lift which allows skiers and snowboarders, who are prepared to assume individual responsibility for their actions (and potentially their lives), to venture out into the back country. The terrain in Bear Creek past the access gate is not controlled for avalanches nor is it policed by ski patrol for safety. While the snow safety conditions are much more risky, snow quality is often of a much higher level … even in light of an ever increasing back country visitor population.
All in all, it seems there’s currently (and for the foreseeable future) a great balance between the amount of expert inbounds terrain which is controlled vs. expert back country terrain which offers higher quality snow conditions and an unparalleled opportunity for adventure.
So, the question about expansion into Bear Creek by the Telluride Ski Resort becomes a loud and resounding “Why?” when there already exists an overabundance of expert terrain of many different varieties. Moreover, the new Revelation Bowl lift now provides visitors an opportunity to simply “experience” the perspective of skiing in Bear Creek with many of the grand views you get from actually being there. The answer to the question of “why” may involve much speculation which I will devote ample time to in subsequent postings. However, on the face of it, I’ll leave it for now to simply say “enough is enough” … since most people have more than they need of controlled expert terrain. The cost of intruding upon a pristine high alpine environment is simply not justified! Additionally, it appears that despite the best efforts of ski patrol, they are already stretched very thin in so far as controlling expert ski terrain which is currently available and are often slow to open up pods or areas in a timely manner due to lack of resources and the vast amount of terrain which requires avalanche mitigation activity. Increasing the amount of such terrain will only stretch resources further and most likely increase operational costs (new personnel hires and equipment) … which will further increase what are currently high fees for lift tickets and season passes. Many — if not most — of the expert skier and snowboarders who I’ve talked to about this are very much opposed to any sort of expansion into Bear Creek.
The previous line of reasoning is from my perspective as a die-hard snowboarder (who will venture just about anywhere) and does not even begin to scratch the surface of a broader rationale for opposing an expansion by those who have never even paid the Telluride Ski Resort a dime, but independently enjoy National Forest lands in Bear Creek via public access points and egress routes.
My guess is the Telluride Ski Resort has probably been very methodical and deliberate in their apparent pursuit to expand the boundaries of the ski area, yet most of us in opposition have simply been huffing and puffing around town or writing the occasional letter here or there. In other words, the expansion effort is being propelled by a well oiled professional “machine”, while the opposition is simply a loose association of individuals who simply know in their hearts this is simply not a good idea (on many fronts). In the middle of all of this is the National Forest Service, who has seemingly acquiesced to most of the Telluride Ski Resort’s requests in the past. So, those who are strongly opposed to such an expansion ought to collaborate to put forth a cohesive and strong set of arguments to the NFS as well as on a public relations front. Such an opposition effort really needs to gain some traction as soon as possible given the professional and abundant resources of the expansion endeavor. I will be writing further upon this subject in the future and welcome all comments from any perspective.