Uphilling issues at West Buttermilk reported, being addressed for full moon events
As uphilling, especially around the full moon, becomes more and more popular in the Aspen area, so do the impacts the activity causes.
Take, for example, reports about the recent situation at the West Buttermilk parking lot, the highest access point for skiers to reach the Buttermilk summit for full-moon viewing.
Pitkin County Commissioner Greg Poschman said in a recent county board meeting he’d heard reports of snowcat drivers finding intoxicated revelers passed out in snowbanks in the early morning, unattended fires, haphazard parking on the road and in driveways and even vomit and excrement on people’s property.
According to Poschman, Aspen Skiing Co. officials were worried “that somebody could die or get injured.”
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“(Uphillers) need to take some responsibility,” he said in a later interview. “They need to educate the freshman class. This is a privilege.”
Jeff Hanle, Skico spokesman, said he had not heard any reports about fires on the mountain or drunks being found in snowbanks. He had, however, heard about problems with West Buttermilk homeowners because of people parking on the road and blocking driveways.
“That road is a private road,” Hanle said. “We have an easement to operate (there) for winter operations.”
Homeowners can close the gate leading to the parking lot at the end of the road, and that could happen in the future, he said. It’s possible the gate may only be opened on full-moon nights, when Skico hosts full-moon dinners at the Cliffhouse restaurant atop Buttermilk, Hanle said.
At present, the gate appears blocked by snow and was open during Tuesday’s full moon. Rumors of the gate being closed this season could not be confirmed as attempts to reach representatives of the West Buttermilk homeowners were not successful.
Hanle said Skico hired security guards for West Buttermilk and Tiehack on full-moon nights. Indeed, a guard at the West Buttermilk lot Tuesday said his marching orders were to turn people away after the lot was full.
“We will staff the parking lot for our full-moon dinner,” Hanle said. “The two or three days on either side is the issue.”
The last Cliffhouse full-moon dinner for the season is March 20.
Poschman said a Skico employee told him about the problems, including the people found by snowcat drivers, though that person declined to be quoted on the record. Two uphillers who went up West Buttermilk during the January full moon said they didn’t witness any offensive behavior.
Still, Poschman said it’s clear some bad behavior needs to be corrected to keep the access to West Buttermilk open.
“I think it just got out of control,” he said. “And I think it’s gotten worse because more people are skinning up.”
Hanle said problems with parking and partying crop up from time to time.
“We’ve dealt with this before,” he said. “The bottom line is people need to respect private property.”
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Aspen Skiing Co. and most of the Colorado ski industry were cruising along in a second strong season, until the coronavirus crisis forced their closure on March 14. Skier visits would typically be announced this week, but the ski industry is focused on forging ahead rather than looking back.