Skier remorseful for entering closed terrain on Aspen Mountain during avalanche control
January 23, 2017
An influential Aspen skier is stressing the importance of honoring ski-area closures after he said he inadvertently entered closed terrain earlier this month while the Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol was using explosives for avalanche control work.
Brad Unglert had his ski pass pulled for four weeks because of the gravity of the situation, but Aspen Skiing Co. officials believe he sincerely regrets the "serious mistake," said Aspen Mountain Manager Peter King.
"He was certainly willing to spread the word that he made a mistake and he is supportive of what the patrol is doing," King said.
Unglert, an Aspen Snowmass-sponsored athlete, has been describing the incident on social media and encouraging other skiers and snowboarders to avoid a similar mistake.
“I felt an immediate wave of guilt and remorse pour over me. It only got worse as the patroller yelled at me, ‘Stay right there! We are doing avalanche control work and there are active explosives in the area.’”
— skier Brad Unglert
Unglert wrote on his Instagram account Tuesday that he and another skier felt that they had the mountain to themselves one day the prior week when it was raining in town and people were avoiding the slopes. They found incredible powder in Walsh's in the afternoon and immediately caught the chairlift for another lap.
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"This time I came in hot off of 1 & 2 Leaf and aired over the rope line to the far right of the entrance," Unglert wrote. "Another amazing run but when I got down to the catwalk at the bottom and saw a ski patroller standing there it immediately dawned on me what I had done."
Walsh's is separated from the adjoining trail by a rope. There is a narrow gap in the rope for entry when the trail is open. The trail on the eastern side of the mountain closes at 3 p.m. for the patrol sweep.
Unglert wrote that he is well aware that Walsh's closes early, but he lost track of time "in my own world of euphoric powder insanity."
"I felt an immediate wave of guilt and remorse pour over me," he wrote. "It only got worse as the patroller yelled at me, 'Stay right there! We are doing avalanche control work and there are active explosives in the area.'"
The incident ended with everyone safe. King said it is a good midseason reminder of the importance of honoring closures. Safety of customers as well as the ski patrol is the top priority, King said.
"We can't distinguish that we're doing avalanche control at every closure," he said, stressing people need to realize a closure must be honored for safety.
King said flying over a rope rather than using an official entrance to any trail is never acceptable. In this case, it would have been apparent at the entrance that the trail was closed, he said.
If the incident would have resulted in an injury or worse, it could have had major implications for ski-area operations. It could have affected Skico's ability to use explosives, which are a major tool used for getting a considerable amount of the terrain open, according to King.
Aspen Mountain doesn't have a major problem with closures being ignored, King said. It's more common for people to duck ropes on powder mornings when they are overly eager to get fresh tracks. King estimated there are half a dozen incidents per season at Aspen Mountain where passes are pulled for skiers or snowboarders violating closures.
The ski patrol at all four mountains handles the issue consistently, he noted. Violators at Aspen Highlands often write a letter to the editors of local newspapers expressing remorse for their actions and urging people to honor closures.
Unglert wrote that he would never knowingly enter closed terrain.
"As an Aspen-Snowmass athlete I try to hold myself to a higher standard and act as a role model to others," he wrote. "On this day I failed horribly.
"The ski patrollers at our four mountains put in a massive amount of work to make the resorts safe for us," Unglert wrote. "It is the ultimate disrespect to disregard closures and rope lines."