Aspen Skiing Co., Snowmass police: Obey all trail closures |

Aspen Skiing Co., Snowmass police: Obey all trail closures

Skiers and snowboarders are ducking ropes at all Aspen Skiing Co. mountains looking for powder stashes, but in some cases, they’re also finding exploding avalanche bombs and terrain they can’t handle.

Closure violations have occurred in high numbers on all Skico mountains since this period of heavy snowfall began almost two weeks ago, said Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle. Some have escalated to potentially dangerous situations: On Snowmass, ski patrollers had to rappel down a cliff to rescue an individual stuck in closed terrain near KT Gully on Friday, and two different pairs of riders have entered runs while patrollers were conducting avalanche-control work.

In one case, the individuals were still in the run when an avalanche bomb exploded — a risk people might not think about when they duck a rope, said Brian Olson, Snowmass Village’s police chief.

While law enforcement hasn’t gotten involved in violations on other mountains, in Snowmass, where the Skier Safety Act has been incorporated into the town code, officers have issued 15 citations to offenders turned into them by ski patrol.

Patrollers don’t always involve the police, and the officers don’t always write tickets, Olson said. But avalanche danger is high after a long dry period followed by abundant snowfall, and that’s why the department is taking offenses more seriously, he said.

“It’s extremely important when we have this type of snowpack and snowfall in a short period of time that people obey all in-bounds closures,” Hanle said.

On Feb. 23, an Aspen man skiing outside the western Aspen Mountain boundary was killed in an avalanche. Skico doesn’t prevent people from leaving its terrain and skiing out of bounds, Hanle said. But avalanche danger can exist in-bounds, and Snowmass has more runs that open and close depending on conditions than the other Aspen ski areas, Olson said.

If ski patrol closes a run, it’s for a reason, Hanle said.

“Use common sense,” Hanle said. “Don’t get carried away with powder fever. And those runs open when they’re ready. Go get ‘em then.”

The police haven’t got involved in violations on other Skico mountains, Hanle said. But patrollers will sometimes take lift tickets or passes when they catch someone in closed terrain, depending on the severity of the violation, a rider’s knowledge of their location and how they react to ski patrol stopping them.

“If you have a negative attitude toward the patrol, you’re probably going to have more consequences,” Hanle said.

But ski patrollers aren’t trying to ruin the fun, he said.

“They’re out there for your safety,” he said.

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