Warren’s World: Crowded Resorts Contribute to Death on the Slopes

By Beacon Staff

There is a major crisis in the ski and snowboard world that very few people are aware of and no one is doing anything about. In Colorado last winter 17 skiers or snowboarders were killed by running into each other or trees. At Deer Valley, Stein Eriksen broke his ribs, wrist and collar bone when he collided with a small boy. That, after skiing for 75 years. The primary reason for the deaths is severe overcrowding on U.S. Forest Service leases.

The first year Vail opened in the early 1960s, I was filming there and one day the mountain sold only eight lift tickets to skiers who could use any or all of the acres of Vail’s Forest Service Permit. A permit charges a complicated percentage of every lift ticket sold to maintain the rest of what the Forest Service does for a living.

On that same permit last winter as many as 26,000 people were trying to keep from running into each other, but many were unsuccessful. On that same day more than 20,000 people skied at Aspen, another 20,000 at Breckenridge, 23,000 at Keystone and there were also giant crowds at Copper and Arapahoe Basin. Probably, in all, more than 100,000 people trying to avoid each other on perfectly groomed snow with easy to ski on shaped skis and high performance ski boots steered by people trying to get back in line at the bottom sooner than someone else.

That is more than 50,000 bumper-to-bumper cars heading back to Denver in the evening.

I have a couple of friends who bought a lot of real estate before the recent bust and they are now bankrupt and trying to sell. At this point in history the federal government is also bankrupt so why don’t they sell or lease some of their real estate to ski resorts? Standing between such a radical idea and reality are the environmentalists and the Sierra Club, which is not a tax deductible foundation but a sophisticated corporation that is keeping you from having more acres to make your turns when you go to the mountains. It is rumored that the CEO of the Sierra Club is being paid over $500,000 a year plus a Smokey the Bear costume to wear at his annual fundraising Halloween parties.

What can you do to get more legal ski-able acres so you don’t have to break the law all of the time by skiing in powder snow out of bounds?

First make friends with your local, dressed-in-green Forest Service employees. Then find out who your local politician is and get him or her a pair of skis and a season pass at your local ski resort. Take them out and give them ski lessons so they can find out what real freedom is all about. Keep in mind that the government owns millions and millions of acres of mountains in the West and all you need is a small percentage more of that land to ski on. Take pictures of some of the ski runs in the summer with a lot of grass growing and no debris, just good land for grazing sheep or cattle or riding mountain bikes.

Form some letter-writing committees and tell it like it really is: How every time you ski down a hill you purge of any negative thoughts. You can’t have a single negative thought while you are making turns down the side of the mountain. It doesn’t matter whether you are skiing or riding the only thing that matters is the size of your smile. And you would smile a lot more if you could ski from Vail to Copper Mountain or to Beaver Creek without burning gasoline. Why Not? The only reason you can’t is that you have never burnt some midnight oil writing letters and having meetings like those that want to limit resort expansion do.

So get out there and get to work and the next 20 years of ski resort expansion is in your hands. If you get started right away 17 people might not die skiing or snowboarding in Colorado in future winters.