Sledding returns to Meadow Mountain | VailDaily.com

Sledding returns to Meadow Mountain

Tamara Miller
Preston Utley/Vail DailyWorkers hoist a tubing tow in the air Monday at Meadow Mountain in Minturn. The tubing hill will be opening after Christmas.
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MINTURN – For years, hundreds of people would head to Meadow Mountain to enjoy winter the old-fashioned way.Children and adults would tromp up the first steep, snowy hill of the popular mountain outside Minturn just to plop a sled on the ground, sit and slide right back down. Bob Nock used to drive by this scene every day in the winter while commuting to his job with the Nova Guides recreational company. The view was just short of idyllic. “Everytime I went by there, there would be an ambulance with flashing lights on,” he said. It seems that getting hurt while sledding on Meadow Mountain was becoming a tradition itself. Warnings by the mountain’s owner, the U.S. Forest Service, didn’t seem to help. Finally a liability claim was filed against the agency. Unable to afford the responsibility, sledding was banned from Meadow Mountain last year. Not anymore. Forest Service officials have given Nock and his wife, Kim, the OK to build and run a sledding operation on Meadow Mountain.It’s an opportunity Nock has wanted for years, he said. “I’ve had this dream for a long time,” he said. Construction of a sledding operation – complete with a 275-foot lift – is underway. Nock expects to re-open Meadow Mountain for sledding Dec. 28, a week from today.

Safety precautionsThe Forest Service tried to recruit a private operator to manage the sledding hill a few years ago, said Cal Wettstein, Holy Cross district ranger. The Nocks came forward then with a plan. They would assume responsibility for keeping users safe, but doing so would require liability insurance. To afford the insurance and the cost of running the operation, the Nocks planned to charge sledders to use the popular hill they had long used for free. It wasn’t a popular idea. “I can see why people were angry when they were doing it for free,” said Kimberly, in an earlier interview. With sledding now banned, the Nocks hope people will see it differently. Their current plan calls for a 275-foot tubing lift that will work much like a tow lift. Users will ride up the lift to the top of the hill and will attach their tube to the lift so they don’t have to carry it. The Nocks will rent out tubes – users will not be able to bring their own because the lift would only be able to hook on to certain types of tubes. Nock plans to have hill attendants along the slope to prevent accidents. Because most are caused when sledders slide down the hill too closely, the attendants will stagger sledders to prevent collisions, he said. The proposed cost is $16 an hour, but Nock said he would like to create a local’s discount.

Minturn militiaHe has other ideas, as well. Perhaps people can bring canned food in to knock a few dollars off the hourly rate, Nock suggested. Some are upset with the Nocks’ plans. A group calling themselves the Minturn Militia have created a Web site advocating that any sledding on Meadow Mountain remain free. The Web site doesn’t contain any contact information, but states the group is selling bumper stickers and T-shirts to raise funds for a nonprofit trust that would “oversee Meadow Mountain.””I can’t pay for liability insurance and keep it free,” Nock said. “I wish I had that kind of money.”Nock said the group hasn’t contacted him with their concerns. He invited them to sit down and talk with him.”I’m more than willing to meet them halfway,” he said. Staff Writer Tamara Miller can be reached at (970) 949-0555, ext. 607, or tmiller@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado