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December 14, 2008
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Rules tweaked for film and photo shoots at Aspen ski areas

ASPEN " The U.S. Forest Service has tweaked its regulations for still photography and filming on public lands in Aspen-Snowmass ski areas following a broad internal review after a tragic death last winter.

The rules are "a little stricter" for commercial shoots within the boundaries of the Aspen Skiing Co.'s four ski areas, said Jim Stark, winter sports administrator with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the Forest Service.

Any commercial shoot on public lands in a ski area that doesn't directly involve a Skico marketing effort now requires its own permit, Stark said. In the past, those types of efforts were in a gray area, he said.

For example, if a ski-glove company sets up a promotional photography shoot on the Big Burn at Snowmass, it must not only get the Skico's blessing, it must also get a permit from the Forest Service, Stark said. If such an effort had some promotional benefit to Snowmass " like a mention of the location in a print advertisement " a permit wasn't always required in the past.

The change came about after the Forest Service reviewed its entire permitting operation " in ski areas, out of bounds and on other public lands " following the death of Wallace Westfeldt last winter. Westfeldt and a filming company working for the Skico traveled outside of the Aspen Highlands boundary and went to work without a permit. Westfeldt, 22, a Roaring Fork Valley native, was killed in an accident while snowboarding in steep terrain in Tonar Bowl.

Stark stressed that the new rules wouldn't have affected that situation. A permit has always been necessary for all out-of-bounds commercial or promotional efforts, but neither the filming company nor the Skico acquired one because of a communications snafu.

"That was kind of a wake-up call that the ski company wasn't following the policy that was in their operating plan," Stark said.

Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said both the Skico and any company working for it on marketing or promotional projects outside ski area boundaries will both talk to the Forest Service from now on.

A lot of commercial work occurs along Richmond Ridge, a backcountry area easily accessible on the back of Aspen Mountain. And a lot of it occurs without permits, Stark said. The Forest Service plans to spend more time patrolling that area for a variety of reasons this winter, so it will check for permits, he said.

But the biggest change will be for commercial work on public lands in the ski areas that doesn't involve Skico marketing. That type of work will require scores more permits this season, Stark estimated.

The agency isn't tightening the regulations as a money-making venture. It will raise only modest amounts, Stark said. The permit fee for still photography is $110 when it involves 10 people or fewer and $150 when it involves 11 to 30 people. The fee for filming is $150 per day for efforts with one to 10 people.

A less expensive permit good for the season will be offered to people who work on commercial efforts frequently, such as the town of Snowmass Village marketing department.

The stricter rules won't affect skiers or riders simply taking pictures of footage for their personal use. In other words, a family from Des Moines doesn't need a permit to take pictures of one another on a sunny day at the top of Elk Camp with the Maroon Bells in the background.

Newspaper photographers snagging powder shots for their publications also are exempt, Stark said.

scondon@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 15, 2008 08:12AM Published Dec 14, 2008 10:38PM Copyright 2008 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.