Vail Daily letter: Trees count as ropes | VailDaily.com

Vail Daily letter: Trees count as ropes

The miles of ropes the Vail Ski Patrol lines out each year to control the hoards of powder hungry skiers and riders in the early season is outstanding. We all love to be among the first to ski a trail after patrol opens up terrain this time of year. The recent storms only fuel the excitement for fresh pow during this early season.

As tempting as the powder is, many locals have received a 30-day suspension on their skis passes and a number of Vail Resorts employees have lost their jobs due to skiing or riding in closed areas on Vail Mountain. Many of these folks say "they didn't know they were in a closed area" or "I never went under a rope!" and the most common quote has been "I was in the trees, came out at the bottom and was caught by patrol saying I am in a closed area!"

The truth is, the trees actually count as ropes. The Vail Ski Patrol lays out miles of ropes each year for the safety of all of us mountain enthusiasts. Avalanche danger, construction, trail maintenance operations and snowpack conditions all play a part in the Ski Patrol's need to stretch out the twine and bamboo sticks across many of our favorite trails. Accessing trails through the trees is not an acceptable excuse however when you end up in closed terrain; this is because the dense forestry is considered an extension of the rope lines.

As I descended through the trees between Riva and Prima enjoying my fat rockered skis, I floated effortlessly down a section known to Vail Ski Patrol as "Sheer Terror." I never saw a rope, I never even thought about it, until I arrived at the bottom of Riva to find two gentlemen with Vail Ski Patrol eager to have a conversation with me. They were polite and explained that I am in a closed area and they need my ski pass. They took my information and explained that my pass will be suspended for one month. Ouch!

Locals beware — skiing in closed areas is a violation of the Skier Responsibility Code and it is up to all of us to know what is open and what is closed. If you are so tempted by the fresh snow in the trees that you drop in, know where you are and where you will be at the end of your run. Take a look at a map to be sure you know your routes and when in doubt, call 4610 and ask Ski Patrol what is open before you drop in. Be aware of the debris, fallen down trees, branches and other objects that can be hidden just inches under the snow, and be conscious of the risks and dangers involved with early season skiing and riding.

Ryan Spinks

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