(Editor’s note: This incident happened last winter, and Roland’s first-person story has been published elsewhere so this subject may look familiar. He wrote this special for us, figuring doing so would help get the word out on taking some political action. See bottom of page for action link.)
On February 21, 2011, on my way back to my home in Jackson Hole, Shepard Smith on FOX News was winding down his newscast. Just before going to commercial, he gave a tease: “A 78 year old physician was arrested for skiing uphill at Jackson Hole Ski Resort” .
Well, that got my attention, because the guy was me.
When the news continued, Smith related the story of my arrest for skiing uphill. He explained that the reason for this drastic action was twofold: Uphill skiing was interfering with grooming equipment and ongoing avalanche control.
Only one problem with this explanation: None of it was true. The grooming equipment had been pulled off the mountain at daybreak and any avalanche control was miles away from where I was skiing. I simply wanted to see the ski race of my 9 year old granddaughter, so as people do all over the world, I’d headed up the mountain on foot to watch the action.
I was heading up the absolute margin of the groomed area when a ski patroller stopped near and told me doing so was against regulations.
Then, two more patrollers came. I told them that I was simply headed up to watch and film my granddaughter’s race. Some time before, I had been told by a local attorney that the Jackson Hole Ski Corp received some sales tax exemption from the State of Wyoming. Their argument for the exemption was based on their allegation that they provided free public access on their leased land. Apparently it was time to find out if this was true.
A few more ski patrollers gathered around. One of them said something about going down to get a complimentary ticket and take the lift up. Somehow, the fact that I would have a ticket would change the scenario. Thing was I already had a ticket as I’d received a lifetime pass as part of the purchase of a commercial lot.
The crowd of patrollers around me suddenly left and I enjoyed my walk up to the ski race. I watched and I filmed the race for some 30 minutes, then 7 patrollers came down the mountain with two non-skiing deputies in their toboggan. I was handcuffed, forced into a toboggan and taken down. After some 400 feet I screamed I could not get my air, because the guiding ski patroller’s skis were throwing buckets of snow in my face. My hands had been shackled behind my back and could not help protect my airway. They stopped for a few seconds and the deputy sitting behind me in the toboggan made a token rearrangement around my collar. Then they hauled me down and threw me in jail.
Well, I never got my day in court. After all this charade the Ski Corp “dropped the charges.” Turned out there were several potential charges: Uphill skiing was prohibited under the influence: I don’t drink. Uphill skiing was prohibited when taking illicit drugs: I don’t take any. Then there was the charge of “criminal trespassing,” which is absurd, having bought a life time pass. And the final one, was really cute: “Theft of services.” So what theft of services had I committed?
As has been covered here before on WildSnow.com, the time has come for ski resort operators who are granted the privilege to carry out a money making business on the People’s Land, to use common sense when it comes to uphill skiing. At the least, pass holders who desire to ski uphill should be accommodated in some fashion other than being banned. More, as has been covered here on Wildsnow, it seems that most of not all resorts on public land could and should allow uphill skiers at no charge or minimal charge, perhaps on designated routes.
Senator John Barrasso from Wyoming was cosponsor of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011. He had written me a letter dated August 8, 2011, after I had made my point to him that uphill skiing tracks should be established by Ski Area Operators for the privilege of getting a lease of public lands. He said: “I appreciate hearing your views, Roland, on how you think this bill could be improved and will keep these suggestions in mind should there be an opportunity to amend the bill before the full Senate.”
Take a few minutes to write a note on the Senator’s web site. Just write something like “I am in favor of uphill ski tracks on Public Lands leased to Ski Resort Operators” or something to this effect.
Previous WildSnow.com report with numerous comments.