Animal conflicts rare at Colorado ski areas |

Animal conflicts rare at Colorado ski areas

Edward Stoner
Vai correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Kendall Anderson, 9, feeds a french fry to a gray jay last weekend on the deck at Gwyn's High Alpine at Snowmass. The jays are a common sight at Colorado ski areas and brazen enough to take food from a person's hand. (Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times)

VAIL, Colo. ” In February, an injured moose charged skiers and snowboarders at Steamboat Ski Area. The moose was caught and euthanized.

A few days earlier, a coyote that was acting aggressively toward skiers on the slopes of Copper Mountain was captured and killed.

Still, local ski areas say these are isolated incidents, and aggressive animals are rare on the slopes.

“None of the major folks here could remember any similar incidents,” said Lauren Pelletreau, spokeswoman for Copper.

“We rarely see animals on the mountain in wintertime,” added Jen Brown, spokeswoman for Vail Mountain.

In northwest Colorado, the Colorado Division of Wildlife is summoned to ski areas about six to 10 times a year to deal with animals, said spokesman Randy Hampton.

“It’s not uncommon at all for us to see those kinds of conflicts at ski resorts,” he said.

Foxes sometimes cause problems at ski areas after people feed them and they start approaching people, Hampton said. That may have been what led the Copper coyote to become aggressive, he said.

“There was some question if people were throwing food from the ski lift down to it,” Hampton said.

At Copper, the coyote bared its teeth at skiers, nipped at a boot, and grabbed a child’s jacket.

“If you see an animal, great, enjoy the opportunity,” Hampton said. “If it becomes a situation where that animal is a danger to people or a danger to itself, then that’s something that needs to be dealt with.”

Skiers should report those dangerous situations to Ski Patrol, Hampton said. In both the Copper and Steamboat cases, Ski Patrol reported the situations to the Division of Wildlife.

Skiers should also contact the agency if they see rare animal, such as a lynx, Hampton said.

But it’s more likely that skiers will see an animal’s tracks than see the animal itself, said Tanya Wiesen of Trailwise Guides, a local nature guide company.

Many of the animals are nocturnal, she explained.

And people shouldn’t approach wildlife, Wiesen added.

“It’s nice to view wildlife from afar,” she said.

Many ski areas operate on Forest Service land, and that agency works with the ski areas to minimize impacts on wildlife. At Vail, Mushroom Bowl and a portion of Blue Sky Basin are designated as wildlife habitat and are off-limits to skiers.