Vail Valley residents taking to the backcountry, rivers |

Vail Valley residents taking to the backcountry, rivers

If you're going to the backcountry, the avalanche danger is 'considerable' right now

Be careful if you're heading to the backcountry. The current avalanche danger is "considerable."
Be careful out there The Colorado Avalanche Information Center lists avalanche danger as “considerable” for the Vail/Summit County area for March 19 and 20. Center-speak, that means “Dangerous avalanche conditions. Cautious route-finding and conservative decision-making essential.” Also: With the Vail and Beaver Creek ski areas closed, Vail Resorts isn’t performing in-bounds avalanche mitigation. Go up at your own risk. Check the current forecast at

Eagle County residents are being urged to keep a “social distance” of about 6 feet from each other. The White River National Forest is about 2.3 million acres. The math is pretty easy.

While Colorado’s ski areas are shut down due to the COVID-19 virus, people can still earn their turns if they’re willing to hike or skin up the mountains. And a number of local residents are doing just that.

At Cripple Creek Backcountry in Avon, owner Doug Stenclik said that shop has seen a serious boost in business. After a weekend rush, Stenclik said activity at the shop has calmed down — to mere Christmas-week levels.

“It’s been a struggle,” Stenclik said. “We went from ‘will we have to lay off (employees)’ to ‘this is great.’”

With that, though, comes the concern of whether or not the Avon shop, along with the stores in Carbondale and at Aspen Highlands, should stay open at all.

Staying open requires the store to just admit one person at a time. The store is then wiped down when that person leaves.

“We’re keeping it well under 10 people at a time,” Stenclik said. That keeps the business in compliance with the most recent county public health order that bans gatherings of more than 10 people.

“We’ve been kind of more appointment-based anyway, so not too much has changed,” Stenclik said. “But with this surge in volume, we’re seeing (Christmas) holiday business without the holiday staffing.”

While the backcountry gear is moving briskly, Stenclik said he’s concerned about people who go into ski area terrain. That terrain is usually avalanche-controlled by Vail Resorts employees, but that isn’t happening now.

“We’ve been warning people about in-bounds avalanches,” Stenclik said. “It’s full backcountry now.”

Stenclik said Vail Resorts has put up signs to that effect, so going onto the resorts now is like going through a backcountry gate.

Rivers calling

On the valley floor, people are social distancing out on local rivers and streams.

Eagle Valley Anglers owner Bob Nock said his shop has also been busier than normal for this time of year.

“People are really hitting the river,” Nock said, adding that fishing is “probably the ultimate social distancing.”

Like Cripple Creek Backcountry, Eagle River Anglers lets just one person at a time into the shop, and the disinfectant wipes come out when that person leaves.

The store is also offering a “call-in” deal on flies. A customer can call to select specific flies or other gear. Nock takes payment over the phone, packages up the order and delivers it to the customer’s front door.

As the order to keep social distance spreads from days to weeks, Nock said people are going to start exhibiting cabin fever.

Right now people are fishing, and that’s a great thing to do,” Nock said, adding that he’s grateful for the added business. But before pulling on the gear, Nock encouraged his friends and neighbors to work on being kind to each other.

“We’re making it through,” he said. “We just need to think outside the box.”

Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at or 970-748-2930.

Support Local Journalism