Aspen powder poachers’ ski passes pulled
December 6, 2008
ASPEN ” Nearly a dozen people this week had their season passes pulled for skiing in closed terrain on Aspen Mountain.
On Monday, 11 people were caught poaching the powder on Red’s Run, including competitive skiers Kiffor Berg and Ted Davenport, according to Rich Burkley, Skico’s general manager of mountain operations.
Matt Tomlinson, 27, also had his pass pulled on Monday for skiing Red’s. He said it was returned to him on Friday.
“We just said we were sorry,” he said, adding that the Skico representative who gave the passes back had a few lecturing words for him, telling Tomlinson it was his responsibility to know what is open and what isn’t. “He just wanted to prove a point.”
Tomlinson said he and his friends jumped into Red’s high in the trees, above the catwalk. They had followed others heading the same direction.
“We went into a closed area that we didn’t know was closed,” he said. “There was definitely no sign.”
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Burkley said current conditions are known as a “poacher’s paradise,” when one run is open and the one next to it is closed but looks so pristine it’s hard not to jump in.
“It’s so tempting,” Burkley said, adding that temptation must be tempered or there will be a price to pay. “Closures are closures, so stay out.
“We respect the passion for powder and if a run is ready to be skied, I guarantee it will be open.”
Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle said people not adhering to the rules of the mountain is a regular occurrence.
“It’s an issue every year, especially early season when not a lot of terrain is open,” he said. “We do this for a reason … it’s not safe. We’re not trying to be mean or nasty.”
Burkley said while this week’s violators had their passes returned to them, that won’t be the case once the season is in full swing, and poachers are endangering themselves and ski patrollers who are setting off controlled avalanches with dynamite.
Hanle said the Skico is working to open as much terrain to the public as quickly as it can. More runs and chairlifts will be open Saturday at Aspen and Snowmass.