Bears hibernating on the slopes |

Bears hibernating on the slopes

Paul Shockley
Vail, CO Colorado
Photo by Rick Rodd/Special to the DailyWhile riding the West End lift at Powderhorn Ski Resort near Grand Junction, instructor Rick Rodd snapped this photo of a black bear on the slopes on the final day of the ski season.

GRAND JUNCTION ” At Powderhorn Ski Resort, they know what bears do in the woods. One adult mother black bear and her cubs decided to spend winter hibernating under a ski lift.

The trio also apparently woke up early ” days before Powderhorn closed March 26.

“This was the first season we know of when bears were active on the mountain while we were still in ski season,” said Sarah Allen, Powderhorn spokeswoman.

Rick Rodd, a Grand Junction resident who just wrapped up his fourth year as a part-time ski instructor at Powderhorn, said he’d heard about sightings of the black bear and her cubs. On closing day, he got lucky on a lift ride up the mountain.

“I was about half-way up just above Red Eye (trail) when I looked down,” said Rodd, who guessed he was riding about 20 to 30 feet above the animal when he spotted it. He had a camera with him.

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“People were saying they saw her with two cubs … I didn’t get (a photo) with the cubs,” he said.

Rodd said he did see several snowy bear tracks along the rocky terrain.

Allen said three runs ” Red Eye, Sweet Misery and Diversion ” were closed during the resort’s final weekend because of bear reports. Aside from an apparent den underneath the chairlift, Allen said staff was aware of at least two other dens at the ski area.

But skiers and ski seasons have typically been long gone before bear sightings in the area.

“It’s very early for them,” she said.

Allen said the mother and her cubs are now a daily sighting for staff.

Randy Hampton, spokesman for the Colorado Division of Wildlife’s Grand Junction office, said warmer temperatures have meant several recent sightings.

“People have probably been skiing past this bear for years and never given it any thought,” Hampton said.

“Generally, (human) activity will keep them out of a ski area,” he said. “At some of the larger resorts they’ll use percussion (detonations) to trigger avalanches ” that wakes them up.”

Wildlife officers plan to leave the bear family trio alone, Hampton said. He urged others to do the same.

“You don’t want to find it,” he said.

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