Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Up the down-hill

    The decision by the U.S. Forest Service and Sun Valley Resort to restrict the hours when uphill trekkers can ascend Bald Mountain is reasonable. However, instead of leading to an outright ban, it should become the beginning of a search to find ways to welcome a broader spectrum of winter enthusiasts to the mountain.
    As backcountry gear that enables rec-reationists to climb up and ski or board down has gotten better and better, the number of people ascending Baldy on their own steam has grown. With increasing numbers, the potential dangers of colli-sions and conflicts with downhill skiers, boarders and machinery has grown, too.
    The risks are worse early every winter season when uphill traffic is concentrated on a handful of runs because the best available snow anywhere is the manmade stuff laid down by the resort.
    No doubt, the decision to restrict uphill access when the chairlifts and gondola are operating will spark criticism and grum-bling from uphill trekkers.
    However, grumbling aside, when a property owner rents or leases property to a tenant, as the U.S. government has leased Bald Mountain to Sun Valley Re-sort, the tenant gains the right to use and enjoy the property. Owners don’t retain the right, for example, to sleep on the couch in an apartment or condo they lease to someone else or to grab a snack from the refrigerator at odd hours. Just the op-posite is true.
    The situation on Baldy is similar. Even so, over the long run the best way to deal with all the love Baldy attracts would be to work out a safe and conflict-free winter route for uphill users. If the route requires manmade snow and resort maintenance, the resort could charge uphill trekkers a reasonable fee. An added benefit for the resort would be the many trekkers who will need refreshments and a good meal at its Lookout or Roundhouse lodges after the demanding 2,000- to 3,000-foot climb.
    Open minds and creative thinking could avert user conflicts and create more ways to enjoy winter on Baldy. Everyone would win.

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