Ski Santa Fe

For more general backcountry snow talk that might not fit into the other forums.

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jpurcellrd
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Joined: Fri Dec 07, 2018 12:33 pm

Ski Santa Fe

Post by jpurcellrd »

Ski Santa Fe just announced (as expected) that they will post pone their opening date. They asked people not to recreate on permitted land. My question is is do they have the legal right to ask this if they aren't open? I get and respect that people not interfere with snow making operations, but they aren't an essential business so I think where it gets murky is is why are they still making snow with a small crew? Ski Santa Fe has been incredible with allowing uphill travel, etc. so I am really grateful for that, so I have never really questioned nor has it been a problem. I am just curious because if this lockdown continues I may go crazy if I can't get some laps in.
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Bob
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by Bob »

I’ve always looked at it this way: ski areas lease public land, and the lease gives them rights to control access. Think of things like cabins, scout camps, logging and mining on public lands. Those activities/lessees all can limit access. And the case is pretty solid where SSF is making snow...the only snow that you can ski on right now.

Public land is managed by the agencies like FS, BLM snd the state, it’s not up to each individual in the public to decide, and those agencies give the lessees the ability to control access. If you have issues with the access, you have to deal with the owners, ie. the agencies, not the lessees.
jpurcellrd
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by jpurcellrd »

I understand that, but:

1. They are not open. Is there a date set for when the lease begins and ends in a year? Or do they lease year round? I also think this is murky to begin with. I think there are some lawsuits in Colorado on this very topic. I've never understood how a lease holder could restrict access to public lands. It's never really been an issue because SSF is pretty awesome with this to begin with.

2. If the argument is is that they are making snow then my question is: Why are they making snow if they are non-essential business? Therefore they should be closed.

I am asking these questions because I doubt the number of positive cases goes down enough for the ski area to open anytime soon if at all.
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Bob
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by Bob »

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure these are the circumstances.

1. The lease is year round. I tried to explain that just because the land is ‘public’ doesn’t mean that the agencies that manage the land (for you) can’t close it off. I listed some examples above - cabins, camps, mines, etc. Agencies close off lots of lands - think of the Santa Fe River watershed, or when they close the entire forest during severe fire seasons. Like I said, if you have a problem, you could take it up with the land managers - the forest service in this case. That’s who SSF answers to in terms of access.

Think of it this way. Say you have stock in a company that owns and manages buildings that have businesses, you might be a part owner but that doesn’t mean you can go in the buildings whenever you want.

The FS can also restrict access - they do in wilderness areas.

2. Just because they’re ‘closed’ doesn’t mean they can’t work and do maintenance and development. They just can’t have customers.
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Bob
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by Bob »

I just thought of a couple more examples of public lands where you can’t go anywhere you want any time you want - national parks and wildlife refuges and campgrounds. Those get closed when the land agency thinks it’s a good idea.
sody
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by sody »

Yeah I think we all should feel grateful on how SF treats uphill access during (normal) seasons). Very liberal so far. I am not sure if they actually can hold it up with the explosion of uphill traffic over the years. I think with the wording about safety in those special use permit, they can close it very easily. We should respect their wishes so it doesn't happen. On the other hand, there is a lot of information about this topics in another thread about Taos and Access. Bob is answering the questions pretty good and contacting the FS is your best bet to inquire. Until the legal challenges are sorted out and no judge ordered the ski area to give access, I think we have to accept the state of affairs right now.
jpurcellrd
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by jpurcellrd »

That's a good suggestion. I shall and encourage others to do the same thing!

I hear what your saying, but I think those are different instances. Closing access for fire mitigation/prevention is different then closing access for monetizing recreation. Logging, mining, cabins in my opinion would also be different. Those are on smaller pieces of land, shorter terms of land usage (logging) vs. having a lease for however many years ski areas have been operating. When you take a large piece of public land (that's prime) and have the ability to shut off access even when there are no operations I think that is wrong. We all should take issue with that as public land users.

I read the public health order and interpreted as these non-essential businesses shouldn't be operating. You wouldn't have your employees come to a Macy's if you don't have customers. I am sure there are gray areas and are likely not enforced anyways. I would like everyone to keep on working, but I just don't want access limited or stopped because of snow making. This was never an issue in the past. In fact the main reason why they stated SSF didn't want people to recreate on the permitted land is because they want to keep their employees safe. Would you not have your employee's come to work then? Would they not be scared for their employee's safety if there wasn't a health order, but the covid numbers remain high? That's getting off topic, but thought it was pertinent.

Thanks for the lease information. I'll see what I come up with or see if SFNF will even answer any of my questions.
jpurcellrd
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by jpurcellrd »

The other thing that bothers me is: what if it dumps 2 ft yet the ski area is still closed. I'm still not allowed on any permitted land even if I am skiing or recreating away from snow making operations? I think this is going to be a real issue if it ever snows...
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Bob
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by Bob »

Just a couple thoughts.

Snowmaking areas get closed in non-pandemic years - there’s danger from 440v lines and high pressure hoses lying on the ground, as well as from grooming cats, slat fences, etc. Since the only snow you can ski on now is man made, well... I used to work there, and I used to work for the forest service, and I’d bet good money that if SSF says it isn’t safe for people to ski there when it’s closed the the FS will totally back them up. And that could have ramifications on the current policy to let people skin when it’s open. Just sayin’. As it stands now, I believe they’d be completely within the permitted rights to totally shut down access other than lift riding.

Your analogy about Macy’s has some problems. Again, I would bet good money that security, maintenance, preparation, and cleaning employees and similar types of jobs would still go into a Macy’s to get it ready and keep it ready to open. Having worked at SSF, I can say that there’s tons of contact with the public before the place opens. People skinning, hiking, and just lookie-lous. And the snowmaking and grooming crews have to deal with people that skin/hike up and things like their dogs. I don’t think your argument about the employees working will hold a lot of water with the FS.

And it’s not true that there are no operations there now, there just aren’t customers. Employees are working to set the place up, from snowmaking to the restaurants and store to signs, pads, ropes, and facilities. It’s that way this time every year. If they shut that prep stuff down, they’d just have to spool it up when the closure’s over and it would take that much longer to open it, instead of being ready to go when the closure is lifted. And it would be that much longer until they could open for business, which would cost them even more money.

I’m not defending so much as trying to help you see things from the ski area’s perspective, based on my experience. It’s more complicated than it might seem. And things may well change if it snows two feet. Though it may be closed for avy danger then. 8)

Good luck with your talk with the SFNF, but im pretty sure your won’t be the first person to bring something like this up with them.
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Bob
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by Bob »

And don’t forget that the FS will allow things like scout camps and leased cabins to restrict access year-round.
sody
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by sody »

jpurcellrd wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 5:31 pm The other thing that bothers me is: what if it dumps 2 ft yet the ski area is still closed. I'm still not allowed on any permitted land even if I am skiing or recreating away from snow making operations? I think this is going to be a real issue if it ever snows...
Everyone is over that virus, I get that but here is a thought: the reason for that public health order is to reduce the strain on hospitals. They are filling up quickly and soon there won't be any space for anyone. What if someone have an accident up the road to the area that requires you to visit the ER? What if you injure yourself skiing? There may be no bed or space for you to be treated.

Just a thought, everyone has to judge here for themselves, asses the risk for themselves and make their own decisions.
jpurcellrd
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by jpurcellrd »

Yeah I don’t want to overload the system. I work in healthcare so I get it. Where does it stop though? Should I not go mountain biking, or trail running? I might even argue I would rather see people at the ski area vs back country skiing for that reason. I personally don’t think we will get this thing under control any time soon. Which was the point I was making. If we don’t have access to permitted land until the health order is lifted we maybe looking at January best case scenario or spring which is more likely. Obviously I will be BC skiing in those instances or take my chances at the ski area if there isn’t snow. The ski area is the obvious way to get turns in early season with or without snow making. Hence the disappointment in shutting off permitted land.

Bob: I understand why they want to make snow right now but was shining some light on the hypocrisy. Making snow so large amount of people (from out of state) can congregate when the health order is up! Way different topics though. I wouldn’t be stirring up trouble or ruining it for others by talking with SFNF. I think clarifying access would be a pretty good start.
sody
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by sody »

jpurcellrd wrote: Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:21 pm Yeah I don’t want to overload the system. I work in healthcare so I get it. Where does it stop though? Should I not go mountain biking, or trail running? I might even argue I would rather see people at the ski area vs back country skiing for that reason. I personally don’t think we will get this thing under control any time soon. Which was the point I was making. If we don’t have access to permitted land until the health order is lifted we maybe looking at January best case scenario or spring which is more likely. Obviously I will be BC skiing in those instances or take my chances at the ski area if there isn’t snow. The ski area is the obvious way to get turns in early season with or without snow making. Hence the disappointment in shutting off permitted land.

Bob: I understand why they want to make snow right now but was shining some light on the hypocrisy. Making snow so large amount of people (from out of state) can congregate when the health order is up! Way different topics though. I wouldn’t be stirring up trouble or ruining it for others by talking with SFNF. I think clarifying access would be a pretty good start.
Everyone has to answer that question for themselves where it should stop. Not sure where the line is for me either. But that goes deeper into human judgment and humans are very bad at judging risks (we know that all too well from all the avalanche risk assessment).
jpurcellrd
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by jpurcellrd »

So I emailed the special permit manager at SFNF. He stated that SSF is requesting people not recreate on permitted lands. SSF is not mandating or stopping access. Take this for what you will.

Also for future reference: This is a general special permit. Here is the section on access. You could interpret this many different ways. This is likely why there are lawsuits on this issue.

F. Area Access. Except for any restrictions as the holder and the authorized officer may agree to be necessary to protect the
installation and operation of authorized structures and developments, the lands and waters covered by this permit shall remain
open to the public for all lawful purposes. To facilitate public use of this area, all existing roads or roads as may be constructed by
the holder, shall remain open to the public, except for roads as may be closed by joint agreement of the holder and the authorized
officer.

I would interpret this as if I were to stay away from structures or operations(i.e. snowmaking, grooming) they wouldn't be able to restrict me from access. So if I was on a run that didn't have snowmaking equipment or a groomer, structure, etc. I would not pose harm. My guess is the ski are would consider any part of the permitted area a potential hazard if somebody was recreating. I would say it's confusing and leave it at that.
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danshorb
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Re: Ski Santa Fe

Post by danshorb »

jpurcellrd wrote: Tue Nov 17, 2020 1:01 pm I would interpret this as if I were to stay away from structures or operations(i.e. snowmaking, grooming) they wouldn't be able to restrict me from access. So if I was on a run that didn't have snowmaking equipment or a groomer, structure, etc. I would not pose harm. My guess is the ski are would consider any part of the permitted area a potential hazard if somebody was recreating. I would say it's confusing and leave it at that.
My 2 cents is that any rescue required within the area currently poses a possible safety risk. It also goes against the governor's stay-at-home order. Additionally, it is clear to us all that many folks access the basin via the main steps, as opposed to the wilderness boundary or Big T, which is why they are taking the conservative stance of making the request. It helps everyone be clear that it is the user's fault if something goes south in an incident within the leased area. And, the backcountry community wouldn't appreciate 1 peron's need for inbounds turns to create an issue for everyone in the future, now, would we?

Just as with all backcountry decision-making, it's important we realize and consider that it's always better to come back another day if conditions are warranting caution. This entire pandemic time automatically stacks 1 more concern on top of the pile of backcountry concerns for everyone. Even a broken arm or tib/fib could become a serious situation for everyone involved. I know I'm personally taking a step back and considering those around me that could be affected by my 'recreational' decisions.
The only two things you can truly depend on are Gravity and Greed. -Jack Palance
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