It was a beautiful New Year’s Day. The skies had opened up after a dry spell and we were rewarded with deep fresh powder in the Back Bowls of Vail. Ski days like that reaffirm why so many choose to live and play in the mountains.
Amongst all the great turns and jubilation things went wrong. Our group disregarded a rope line that marks off steep terrain. Had we been diligent we would have attempted to enter at the gate of this run and clearly found that the run was closed. It was an honest mistake as we had presumed the terrain was open, but the fact remained that a rope line was illegally crossed and in the end it was a mistake we had to own. Crossing a rope is a violation of the Colorado Ski Safety Act and could lead to a class 2 petty offense punishable with a fine of up to $1,000.
For our ill-advised decision, we were greeted by a pair of ski patrollers at the bottom of our run. They explained that the run was closed and we would be losing our right to ski for 30 days. Coincidentally, the one patroller was the head of snow safety at Vail Mountain. Even worse, patrollers had been digging snow pits on portions of the run. The area is prone to snow slides and we could have created a very dangerous situation for all involved.
Ski areas close terrain for a multitude of reasons to include avalanche mitigation, thin snowpack and environmental purposes. Ski patrollers have a difficult job especially at an area as expansive as Vail. As responsible skiers and riders we need to keep this in mind. It is in our best interest to make things easier on these professionals by obeying posted closures and rope lines.
Skiing is one of my greatest passions in life. I will suffer in the short-term, but in the end it is only 30 days. The takeaway is very clear. I know that I and those I spend time with on the mountain will never cut a rope again. More importantly, we are very fortunate our actions did not set off a chain of events with a significantly grimmer outcome.
Bottom line, a rope is a rope and with or without a closed sign they should never be crossed.