(Last Updated On: December 26, 2010)
It seems that Crested Butte Mountain Resort has initiated a new rope drop policy that requires skiers to wear a beacon during the opening of new terrain. All of this seems to have come about suddenly- just in the last week- leaving some locals slightly aghast at the new policy.
The first we at 14erskiers.com heard about this new policy was when this email showed up in our friend’s inbox.
CRESTED BUTTE, Colo. – December 20 – Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) has been blessed with an abundance of early season powder and that means terrain is opening quickly. In preparation, the Crested Butte Ski Patrol has created new guidelines for terrain openings to maximize safety for all guests. The new protocol goes into effect immediately and has been designed to create greater awareness of the inherent risk in skiing and riding extreme terrain. The resort also wants to recognize those who take extra precautions that can be helpful in the instance of an in-bound slide.
“We are all excited about the incredible snow Mother Nature has provided already this season,” said Ken Stone, chief operating officer at CBMR. “As resort operators we are constantly focused on the safety of our guests and with this new policy we hope to encourage courtesy and preparedness. Tackling the Extremes should not be taken lightly; this terrain demands respect and focused attention.”
While snow safety and mitigation efforts reduce the risk of avalanches, slides may still occur at ski areas, both inside and outside posted boundaries. Avalanches are an inherent risk of the sport due to the nature of snow and its presence on steep mountainous terrain.
CBMR Terrain Opening Protocol:
· Ski Patrol will allow skiers and riders with transceivers (avalanche beacons) to enter first at terrain openings
· Ski Patrol will now use a gate rather than a rope lifting or dropping to allow more space between skiers and riders
· When the gate is open, skiers and riders will proceed, one at a time, through the gate
· Any ducking of ropes will result in the loss of lift passes and a delay in the opening of terrain for everyone
In addition, the Crested Butte Ski Patrol reminds all extreme terrain users to always ski or ride with a partner and keep them within sight at all times; to obey all signs and closures; and to carry avalanche equipment such as beacons, shovels, probes and Recco chips, and know how to use them.
For more information contact Erik Forsythe, Ski Patrol Director – 349-2220, Frank Coffey, Snow Safety Director – 349-4137, or Chris Corliss, Mountain Manager – 349-2341.
Now, the new policy can be seen on CBMR’s website:
A quick snapshot of some of the new rules as stated on CMBR’s site:
In an effort to encourage and reward standard practices for travel in avalanche prone terrain, the Crested Butte Ski Patrol will be allowing the users of avalanche beacons early access to said terrain on initial openings and re-openings after avalanche mitigation procedures.
Q: When and where will this apply?
A: This policy with be in effect all season. Any time we are opening or re-opening terrain initially or after new snow and/or any time the public has gathered awaiting terrain opening with potential avalanche danger, no matter how slight, we will be providing avalanche beacon users with access to that terrain ahead of those without.
Q: Will patrollers be checking skiers’ beacons as they pass through the gate/line?
Q: How will this work at the High Lift and North Face Lift?
A: There will be an “Avalanche Beacon Users Only” lane that will load the lift before other lanes are allowed to alternate into the mix. Only those that are in this lane when the lift opens will be given priority. As soon as the first wave loads, the “Avalanche Beacon Users Only” sign will be pulled and the lane will be open to all users and will alternate as usual.
Q: Will this happen at any other lifts like the Silver Queen or Paradise?
Q: How will this work at gate openings?
A: As the opening nears, the Ski Patroller at the gate will ask beacon users to move to the front of the group. Once the group has been organized, and the terrain is ready for opening, the gate will be opened and beacon users will proceed, one at a time, through the gate. Once the initial wave of beacon users has passed through the gate, all others will be invited to pass through the gate one at a time. Any disorderly conduct or ducking of ropes will result in the loss of lift passes for individuals and the delay of terrain opening for everyone.
My Opinion on the Matter
In some ways, we can’t be surprised the CBMR is initiated such policies. As the ski industry progresses, more skiers are finding themselves entering “extreme” terrain than before. In addition, many skiers are adding backcountry skiing to their repertoire. Recent in-bounds avalanches such as in Jackson Hole, Snowbird, and A-Basin have caused some CBMR patrollers to take a deeper look at the safety issues at hand. And, let’s face it. We do live in the most litigious country in the world. In some ways, I can’t blame CBMR for initiating this policy.
But, at the same time, I don’t really like this policy. CBMR has always been really conservative about terrain openings. They don’t open it unless it is fully safe- no questions asked. One would hope that this new beacon policy would help CBMR patrollers open terrain a tad bit earlier or perhaps provide some “slackcountry” access gates. But, I don’t think that this is the case. Crested Butte is not Whistler- where there is so much terrain patrollers are seemingly lackadaisical about control work in certain areas. Nor is it Jackson or Snowbird. Here, patrollers are, for lack of a better word- anal. They rarely leave things untracked. Terrain is often bombed to death, ruining many of our favorite lines sometimes for the whole season. And I have rarely felt any need to wear a beacon inbounds at this resort (a testament to the safe-keeping of ski patrol), whereas I have definitely felt the need elsewhere. This new “beacons at rope-drop” policy is simply a case of CYA – Cover Your Ass. And, it’s truly unfortunate for those friends of ours who do not have a beacon because they don’t venture into the backcountry. We spend $900+ on season’s passes. Now, CBMR wants skiers to pay an additional $300 or so for a beacon too, just to ski fresh tracks in bounds- and no place to rent them, unlike Bridger Bowl which requires beacons on much of its terrain. If you ask me, CBMR needs to take a better look at their new policy and provide a supporting infrastructure for it before suddenly dropping the ropes for those only with a beacon.