Thomas Chapman — Bear Creek Telluride — His Story

Post by blogger | December 13, 2010      

Editor’s note from Lou: I was intrigued a few days ago to receive an email from Thomas Chapman, containing a series of detailed statements that clarify much of what he’s doing with the Bear Creek property near Telluride, Colorado. Chapman’s writing originated as a series of answers to email questions from Gus Jarvis in Telluride, ostensibly for use in a local publicaton. Much to Chapman’s disappointment, his answers were not published within what he considered a reasonable time frame, so he proceeded to send his writing around to try and communicate his position. Eventually, he sent me an unsolicited email. I liked his unfiltered take and thought our readers would as well (whether they agreed with it or not). So, I worked with Tom to edit and re-write this into a form that works for an albeit lengthy but most certainly timely blog post, and he approved for publication today so here goes! PLEASE NOTE: Now that Chapman is published here, we may not like his approach to land sales and development and all of you have a perfect right to be critical, but let’s keep the name calling and personal attacks down to the minimum, and instead show we’re the reasonable people we know we are. Indeed, if backcountry skiers are EVER going to legally have full access to Bear Creek again, someone is going to have to work with Chapman and associated land owners to work out a deal of some sort, so we might as well start right here now with the type of conversation that can lead to resolution, rather than rancor. Also, please know the opinions expressed below are those of author Thomas Chapman, and in no way are intended to reflect the opinions of myself or

Q: Thomas, how did your purchase of the Bear Creek property come about?

A: Lou, prior owner Dr. George Greenberg contacted me in 2002 and asked if I would help him sell his Bear Creek claims. I listed the properties for sale at $180,000.00. There’s about 120 acres of land in this group, including about 40 acres of full surface and mineral rights, and about 80 acres of mineral rights only claims. In the summer of 2002, I took out a full back page ad in the local Telluride newspaper advertising all of Dr. Greenberg’s lands for $180,000.00. I was not successful in selling this property for Greenberg during the period of my listing. The Forest Service would not buy the land for more than the Forest Service appraisal of $130,000.00. Dr. Greenberg would not come down on his price. And Telluride didn’t care, evidently, as no one in Telluride expressed any interest whatsoever in purchasing the lands, even though they could be purchased for about what a garage would cost to build in Telluride. So I walked away — for seven years.

In those ensuing seven years, Dr. Greenberg would call me occasionally to give me an update on his efforts to sell or trade his lands. He was working without a broker during those years, trying to sell his lands to either the Forest Service or to any person or organization in Telluride that would have liked to purchase them, including the Bear Creek Preserve folks.

In October of 2009 Dr. Greenberg called me to say that he had received a request from Telluride Ski & Golf for permission to travel over his lands for purpose of their snow avalanche study. He denied their request. They entered anyway. Dr. Greenberg made it clear that he did not want people to ski across his lands. They skied over his lands anyway — at the rate of around 200 per day, or 6,000 per month (Town of Telluride’s count, not ours). Once again, Dr. Greenberg asked me if I might have a buyer that would purchase his lands as he did not want to deal with all the issues. He simply was at a loss on how to deal with a huge ski corporation and a skiing culture that didn’t seem to care about his rights — only theirs.

I said yes, I had a party looking for an investment in Colorado and I would see if they might have an interest in these incredibly beautiful lands in Bear Creek. Dr. Greenberg’s asking price was now $300,000.00. I sold it for $246,000.00 in March of 2010 and the buyers were absolutely delighted to own this exquisite property. I was delighted to finally be able to sell it for Dr. Greenberg, who was hung out to dry, in my opinion, by nearly every person and preservation group in the Telluride region for seven years. It certainly looked like a situation of why buy, when you can trespass for free, against a man who could not defend himself.

I did not buy the claims. They were purchased by the Gold Hill Development Company, in which I hold a 20% principal interest. If you would like to ask questions of the majority partner, you may do so by contacting him. He may or may not answer them. His name is Ron Curry, and he’s the in-residence chef and manager at the stunning Casa Barranca within Black Canyon National Park, the only luxury home inside a national park in America. Phone: 916-765-9045

(Photo removed by request of photographer.)

Q: Thomas, please explain what you do in the business of real estate and associated land exchanges?

A: I have been a Colorado real estate broker for 38 consecutive years. I have done exactly one land exchange in that period of time. That was the Telluride/West Elk Wilderness land exchange in 1994. In those 38 years, I have held small minority ownership interests in exactly four real estate investments. Telluride brokers might do that many in a year. In dozens of other real estate transactions — I was the seller’s real estate broker working at commission rates of 6% or less.

When I represent a property owner as a broker, I do exactly the same thing every broker in Telluride does. That is, I make every effort to sell my client’s property for the highest possible price.

In those four transactions (over 38 years) in which I have held a principal interest, my objective was, and is, to sell for more than we paid and make a profit — which would be exactly the same motive of every other investor in Telluride today, or website entrepreneur such as yourself for that matter.

I consider myself a landowner advocate, particularly in the specialty area of private lands entrapped by federal legislation, usually federal wilderness areas, but national parks as well. The entrapped private lands have immediate compromised values, in that the typical landowner does not have the money resources to battle the gargantuan federal government, state government, and right on down to the county level where county commissioners pass regulations that limit the use of these lands due to their “special designation” or “elevation,” or whatever ostensible reason they believe exists for protecting the public from “adverse” use by a private landowner. The resulting valuation process is compromised due to restricted use and restricted access.

So, if I were to try to assess what I see as my role in this process, it would be first and foremost to represent the interest of compromised landowners, to level the playing field, to see that they have every opportunity to sell their lands for the highest possible price, just as would be the case for the landowner back in town. In this sense, my goal would be to have a positive impact on the reasoning process at the political level, say at Congresswoman Diana DeGette’s level, where she is trying to introduce legislation that would expand and create new wilderness areas in Western Colorado and Eastern Utah. I would like to have her, her staff, her fellow Congressmen and Senators, and all proponents of wilderness designation, be aware of the conflicted circumstances that arise when decisions are made for pure political expediency. There is a better way of accomplishing the same goal, and it’s called sitting down at the “kitchen table” with proposed inholders, or in this case, the Bear Creek landowners. That is the correct way to resolve the issue, the way our founding fathers would have endorsed.

Nearly every person in America, every environmentalist, every non-profit organization, and most of the people in Telluride, buy real estate of some kind with the thought of selling it for more than they paid for it. This opportunity should not be denied a landowner who happens to be entrapped within a wilderness area or be located within Bear Creek.

Therefore, making a profit for my client is one of my goals. Another would be to serve as a “check” against the over-zealous portion of the environmental community and the sycophant politicians that pander to them for political gain.

Q: How do you pick property to get involved in for these various land exchanges or other types of deals?

A: Lou, your plural use of “land exchanges” is incorrect. It needs to be changed to the singular “land exchange”. What I would look for when purchasing a property would be the same thing that every investor in Telluride looks for — something that has the possibility of being worth more tomorrow than it is worth today.

Q:When did you begin your real estate career? Are you a success?

A: I started 38 years ago, at the age of 22, upon graduating from the University of Colorado. In that 38 year period of time, I have never had a complaint filed against me, or my company, on any matter, with the Colorado Division of Real Estate. Success can be measured in many ways, and therefore there is no absolute answer to your question.

Q: What are your plans for your property in Bear Creek?

A: Gold Hill Development Corporation intends to:

1. Reopen the multiple existing gold and silver mines on the various claims, utilizing the historic and still existing Gold Hill Road to remove ore to processing plants, subject to a pending minerals analysis showing this option to be economically viable.

2. Construct a 1000 square foot European-style rock chalet on the westerly portion of the Little Bessie parcel, just below below Gold Hill Ridge, just above lift 15, just over the ridge from the Telski “chute” runs, in the area known locally as the “Delta Bowl.”

3. Develop “eco-tourism” facilities on the Modena Parcel (the large flat area just below San Joaquin Ridge and just above the “Wedding Chutes”). Those facilities would consist of yurt-style structures, in the concept of a spa resort. During winter we would utilize the “balloon-igloo construction technique,” whereby you create living space in the void created by large balloon-like structures covered with snow and ice.

4. We intend to fence the property for maximum privacy in summer months.

5. We intend to close our lands to all public travel, both summer and winter months and will take whatever measures are necessary to stop the trespass skiing occurring on GHDC lands via the upper Gold Hill backcountry release gates, which have now been closed. Our lands have been posted every 200 feet. The liability associated with public skiing over our private lands is unacceptable. This should be obvious, with Bear Creek Off-Piste ski run names like “Graveyard” and “Deep & Dangerous”, both of which are on the GHDC Little Bessie parcel.

Lou, as I’m sure you know as a journalist covering backcountry skiing here on, there have been several deaths in Bear Creek in the last 15 years. The snow is not controlled in this area. It’s not safe to ski in this area without avalanche control. We intend to terminate skiing over GHDC private lands and we asked the Forest Service many months ago to close the Gold Hill release gates and to rescind all current guide permits that would result in trespass over Bear Creek private lands. We appreciate the fact that the Forest Service has done so and we appreciate Dave Riley’s gracious decision to vacate Telski’s guide permit and his statement that Telski will enforce the rope closure by pulling passes for two years.

We are not the only Bear Creek landowner who has taken this position. The West family (Nellie/Laura parcels) made the same request of the Forest Service for the same reasons. They have owned their lands for over four generations There is absolutely no way that a skier who exits the two upper Gold Hill release gates, above Lift 15, can descend down to Telluride without crossing the GHDC lands or the West family lands, or both. Information to the contrary is being wrongly disseminated by the editor of The Planet newspaper, the San Miguel Assessor, the San Miguel County GIS office, and enabled by a County Surveyor ducking his responsibility to clear up the issue. The GHDC lands haven’t moved an inch since 1892 — and in 118 years there has never been a “gap,” as this is being called. The confusion is purposeful and regrettable. All of these private lands were surveyed by longtime professional registered surveyor Bob Larson of Ouray, Colorado. I enclose by attachment a digital copy of the registered GHDC lands survey, the West family Nellie/Laura survey, the Gold Hill Road survey, and the scurrilous mis-informing map put out by the San Miguel County GIS office.

6. We intend to reopen vehicular access along the historic Gold Hill Road for the entire 4 1/2 mile length of the road, starting at the mine dump on the Little Bessie parcel in Upper Bear Creek Basin all the way back to town, crossing the bridge at the lower Gondola station and then crossing to the first public street. This road is clearly shown on the Drake Mountain Maps 2002 MAP OF THE MOUNTAINS OF TELLURIDE. We had the entire road surveyed this summer, including those portions that travel through the six Telski private parcels on Gold Hill Ridge and their new Dandy parcel in West Bear Creek. We are initiating legal proceedings in federal court against two parties for the purpose of quieting title along the historic Gold Hill Road, most of which, as you may know, is a well-maintained boulevard utilized by Telluride Ski & Golf year-round. The public would know this road right-of-way as the “See Forever Run.”

The actions will be against:

— As against the Forest Service, in a claim of DOI Easement (known as a Department of Interior Easement). The Little Bessie Parcel was patented in 1892, with all rights of ingress and egress appurtenant thereto along the then existing Gold Hill Road, fully 13 years before the 1905 Uncompahgre National Forest reservation. The right of ingress and egress for the Little Bessie parcel along the Gold Hill Road predates Forest Service rights in and to the same road right-of-way. As an alternative to this action, GHDC has offered to exchange non-exclusive easements with the Forest Service that would grant GHDC vehicular road access on the 97% of the Gold Hill Road owned by the Forest Service, and in return, GHDC would grant a non-exclusive easement to the Forest Service for public access through those portions of the Wasatch Trail that pass through GHDC lands, for summer use only.

— As against Telluride Ski & Golf and TSG Asset Holdings, in a quiet title action against the six private parcels they hold along Gold Hill Ridge and their one parcel on West Bear Creek, the Dandy. The GHDC Little Bessie Parcel was patented in 1892. All seven of the Telski parcels were patented subsequent to that date, and therefore are “junior” in line of patent. The appurtenants clause found within the Little Bessie patent creates a senior right for ingress and egress over all subsequent patents issued along the road, including all of the subsequent patents issued on parcels now owned by Telluride Ski & Golf and TSG Asset Holdings. All patents now held by Telski are “junior,” and in fact have been “junior” to the senior rights of the Little Bessie for the last 118 years. If GHDC road access rights are affirmed by the court without condition, that would allow snow removal from the road for purpose of accessing say, the Delta Bowl home, in any month of the year, including October through April. As an alternative to this action, if Telski recognizes the GHDC road rights prior to a quiet title suit, GHDC would be willing to negotiate track usage during the months the ski area is open.

Q: Some folks say that your land deals have an element of “extortion” in that you make it known you plan on developing “inholdings” in special places, which in turn helps you sell your property or exchange it for higher value. Is that true?

A: There will always be those who will inevitably suffer misconceptions for lack of investing sufficient time in investigating the facts.

For those who are interested in a straight-up honest debate on the issues, I would simply say that they must first properly inform themselves and not rely exclusively upon the unvalidated assertions of others who may be committed to a questionable agenda. In the case of Bear Creek, the private lands were mining gold and silver many decades before there was such a thing as recreational skiing. Patented mining claims are based on first in time first in right. Colorado water law is based on first in time first in right. The respectful user of the backcountry understands this and respects private property, just as he or she would respect someone else’s private water rights.

I would also tell them not to vote for pandering politicians, who for political expediency, create wilderness inholdings to begin with. The genesis of the problem with regards to designated wilderness areas, is the environmental advocate who convinces a glad-handing politician to create an inholding in the first place.

But once they are created, the entrapped landowner does not lose his constitutional right of reasonable use and enjoyment of his or her lands, and they certainly do not lose the right to sell their lands for the highest possible price. To believe otherwise, is to degrade the core values that most Americans hold — one of which is respect for private property rights and another the right to equal and fair treatment with regards to real estate ownership.

Q: What would you tell people, especially skiers, who are losing public access to Bear Creek due to your not allowing the public to cross your land?

A: First, I would ask them to consider the fact that there are other owners in Bear Creek, one of which, the West family, has made it clear that they do not want the public to trespass on their lands.

In my opinion, public access has never existed in Bear Creek, not since the 1880’s with the patent of numerous private lands that cross the width and breadth of Bear Creek. From that date forward, public access up Bear Creek was always subject to permission to cross private lands.

The process of patenting lands was a process of creating private property rights. Those rights are not relinquished by subsequent unlawful behavior. Everyone understands that you ask permission to hunt pheasants on someone’s ranch by first asking permission to do so, unless you are willing to commit an unlawful act.

You will notice in Telluride that you have to have permission to do a lot of things. For example, if you want to park on the streets, you are required to buy a parking stub. If you don’t, the rules say the police department can give you a ticket or impound your car. If there are no rules, and if people are not willing to respect the next person’s property rights (or the right of the town to create parking rules), then we have anarchy.

The correct way to handle this issue, is the way the Hardrock Hundred folks handled it this summer. They asked permission of GHDC to cross the private lands. And permission was granted. So in that regard, if a skier wants to pass through this winter, he will have to show how he will mitigate the liability issue from accidental death or injury, which are the two over-riding factors in the decision to not allow skiing over the private lands, most of which is treacherous skiing as you know. No one has yet to explain why it is acceptable to transfer very real injury and death liability over and unto the several Bear Creek landowners, just so Telski can pocket another $98.00 lift ticket or the various guides collect on a $600.00 guide ticket.

Furthermore, I recall seeing one of your commenters here on WildSnow write that liability coverage for land such as ours was a simple matter of extending homeowner’s insurance coverage. Let me just say that is not always so, and for various reasons is not so in our case.

Q: Legal Wilderness is of course a big issue for us here in Colorado, what are your feelings about it?

A: If done correctly, I think the creation of wilderness areas and the preservation of open space is a wonderful thing. I fully support our existing wilderness areas. I could support new wilderness proposals if they do not entrap private lands and take into consideration the multiple use aspects of our public lands.

I have a number of good friends who are liberal environmentalists. I have participated in private property/land exchange issues working against billionaire capitalists. What I actually do and the perception of what I do is often confusing to people. But I operate off of former UCLA Coach Wooden’s admonition that a person should be more concerned about their character than their reputation, for your character is who you truly are, and your reputation is merely what someone thinks you are.

Thomas Chapman Dec. 13, 2010

Please see our previous blog post about backcountry skiing access to Bear Creek being blocked.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


128 Responses to “Thomas Chapman — Bear Creek Telluride — His Story”

  1. skibum December 13th, 2010 5:35 pm

    is chapman any better or worse than wexner or koch?
    i notice that you have all kinds of new signage up around the mobile hut lou. kind of a 180 switch from your rants against signage eh? is it NIMBYism to the max when you want it your way but don’t want it his way because you want to go where you want to? bottom line here is ownership. he owns it. he can do what he wants. when the town of telluride pissed off neil blue he closed off the valley floor. prior to that he had allowed public access. then the town had to spend nearly $55million in purchase price and legal fees to get back what they had for free to begin with. again, ownership. he who owns has the say. and if the people of telluride didn’t learn anything from that episode, i guess chapman will make them take the class over.
    do you want people skiing across your land to access treasure mtn?
    some of the same issues exist in annie basin but have been worked out over a period of time. respect and obey may find a positive conclusion.

  2. Christian December 13th, 2010 5:36 pm

    “The process of patenting lands was a process of creating private property rights. Those rights are not relinquished by subsequent unlawful behavior.”

    Not true at all.

    I cant see how GHDC is going to get around the public prescriptive easement issue.

  3. Aimee December 13th, 2010 5:36 pm

    @dongshow – it’s not ski tracks he’s worried about, it’s occupier’s liability. GDHC, as a landowner, is liable under law for everything that happens on their property.

    I’m not saying that I agree with their tactics, but such liability is a legitimate concern that could cost them alot of money.

  4. dongshow December 13th, 2010 4:41 pm

    “It certainly looked like a situation of why buy, when you can trespass for free, against a man who could not defend himself. ”

    In response, and I don’t know much about the issue, this certainly looks like a situation of pointless defending against trespassing.

    The unimaginable horror of having ski tracks across uninhabited private property is a little hard to grasp.

  5. mtnrunner2 December 13th, 2010 5:42 pm

    It’s just as I suspected:

    “The liability associated with public skiing over our private lands is unacceptable. This should be obvious, with Bear Creek Off-Piste ski run names like “Graveyard” and “Deep & Dangerous”, both of which are on the GHDC Little Bessie parcel.”

    How can private property owners expect to be open to people crossing their lands, when they are held responsible for the actions of others? That’s crazy. There is absolutely no reason why a property owner should be responsible for a skier or hiker getting injured or dying on their property. Every person who goes into the outdoors should be responsible for everything that happens to them.

    As is often the case, private individuals trying to earn a profit or a living are being castigated for what is more than anything the result of bad laws and/or government policy.

    It’s impossible to say that every property owner would allow access if the threat of lawsuits were removed, but it would certainly be more likely. If tort law were brought in line with the principle of being personally responsible for what happens to you, property owners would not need to fear lawsuits, and the bar for getting property owners to accept polite travel across their property would be much lower.

    I still wonder in this particular case if the new owner would consider an easement for access if they could not be held liable.

    Thanks Lou, the interview was a great idea. And I appreciate the Mr. Chapman took the time to respond in such detail.

  6. Lou December 13th, 2010 5:44 pm

    Skibum, as happens and is understandable, you only know part of the story. We have private property up there that we chose not to sign. I’d suggest you go easy on your rants, as we mean good. In fact, we are paying extra money for liability insurance so we don’t have to be at so much risk by not posting signs, I hope you appreciate that, and perhaps you’d even like to make a donation? For various reasons it is necessary to post property and we did so where we felt it necessary. It’s not that big a deal, especially as it doesn’t block access to anything., and if it did we’d grant permission to anyone who asked. There is even more to the story than that, which I can’t get into, but we have some very altruistic and generous goals that are on hold for the moment. Or, would you like us to sell the property to Chapman?

  7. Dave Field December 13th, 2010 5:45 pm

    If you knowingly purchase an inholding within a parcel of public lands, I would assume that there would be certain legal rights and limitations regarding the acceptable uses of that land. Does anybody know the legal uses of the land in Bear Creek outside of active mining and associated structures? I have trouble believing its zoned for the resort purposes mentioned above.

    Regarding liability of skier tresspass and natural hazard. Isn’t there only liability if you are charging somebody or actively promoting them to ski on your property? I would assume that an avalanche area is a natural hazard similar to a cliff that is a natural feature. If somebody falls off a cliff on your land and they were tresspassing, the landowner is not liable as a cliff is a natural hazard and does not require fencing or signage by the landowner.

  8. Lou December 13th, 2010 5:49 pm

    Dave, let’s say I had a place where I mounted a cross beam between two trees for hanging elk (not skiers) and a skier hit it. I could be sued for negligence. Whether they won or not is immaterial, as it would cost a bunch of money and time, not to mention the stress. That’s the problem, it goes beyond simplistic stuff. And, they could win. This is why when you own a house you need to carry a couple of million liability on your homeowners insurance. Someone could even cut themselves on your picket fence and sue you.

  9. Brian S December 13th, 2010 5:51 pm

    Well, we live in America. I totally expect that if someone does not want me on their private property – for whatever reason – they have full right to deny me access.

    If you want to tromp around with little or no property issues move to Alaska. You can tour through the Chugach or Alaska ranges for many lifetimes without running into a property issue.

  10. Lou December 13th, 2010 5:54 pm

    BTW everyone, in Austria anyway and I hear other places, there is indeed the “right of passage” with most of the private land, meaning you can cross without permission. I’ve always found that interesting, as well as useful (grin).

  11. David December 13th, 2010 6:00 pm

    Thanks for publishing this Lou.

    Although this was interesting, I would like to read an alternative viewpoint to the self serving one Mr. Chapman presented.

    While Coach Wooden was correct in emphasizing character over reputation, his character was such that he enjoyed a tremendous reputation, unlike Mr. Chapman. I doubt the great coach would let his young players hide from the consequences of their behavior in this manner.

  12. Christian December 13th, 2010 6:05 pm

    Didn’t teleski agree to indemnify GDHC?

  13. Lou December 13th, 2010 6:14 pm

    David, just google Chapman and you find a nuclear amount of stuff in the alternate viewpoint. But, if someone wants to write a guest blog about how public rights should trump private property rights in some cases, and perhaps in Bear Creek, I’ll publish if it’s clear and publishable. There is potential for this sort of thing on literally hundreds of parcels all over Colorado. Perhaps it’s time people paid more attention to that BEFORE Thomas Chapman and his associates buy them?

  14. Brian Hessling December 13th, 2010 6:20 pm

    Man, that’s a lot to digest, better reach for the pepto. I still gotta wonder if the possibility of a “Delta Bowl” lift reached Mr Chapmans ears about the same time he began working for Mr Greenberg ? Whats really scary is the whole “plan” for Bear Creek. Or is that intended to freak everybody out so that us lazy environmentalists will start figuring out how to save it. I’m sure somebody’s working on a “Save Bear Creek” bumper sticker as we speak. My guts are feeling queezy.

  15. Lou December 13th, 2010 6:20 pm

    Christian, according to Chapman there is something that makes the Telski indemnification not work. I’ll look back through our emails and see if I can find it. Lou

  16. Lou December 13th, 2010 6:28 pm

    Chapman told me that Telski’s offer to provide coverage in his opinion would probably be negated upon a claim due to how the area has had so much PR as being the exciting risky area, among other things. It sounded like it was iffy enough to not give the land owners confidence that they wouldn’t be liable, even under Telski’s wing.

    Thing is, you can get a lot of expert advice on this stuff, but in the end the only expert is the judge or jury during a lawsuit, so if you’re a land owner it can seem pretty risky even if you have so called “insurance.” Just think of your own insurance, and how what you get sold is frequently not exactly what it turns out to be when you wreck your car or get sick. Liability coverage is the same way.

    Now, you might call Chapman’s take weak sauce, but it sounded reasonable to me. I’ve been screwed so many times by the fine print of insurance companies I lost count years ago.

    Edit: Another IMPORTANT thing occurs to me. Telski has liability protection from the Skiers Safety Act. I doubt that extends to a private land holder adjacent to the resort… ON the other hand, if Chapman and his associates became “part” of the resort in some way, they would be defended under the Skiers Safety Act. Interesting…

  17. Aimee December 13th, 2010 6:46 pm

    @ Dave Field — I don’t think it matters if they were on your property at your invitation or if they were trespassing. The law says if it’s your property, it’s your responsibility.

    Not exactly the most fair, but that’s the way the trespasser-falling-off-a-cliff tumbles. Er, I mean cookie crumbles.

  18. Lou December 13th, 2010 7:01 pm

    Aimee is exactly correct.

    As for land use, there are zoning laws, but there are always gray areas, grandfathered uses, uses by right, all sorts of things that allow you to do things that the zoning would otherwise disallow. Some land owners even go ahead and do something, then once the county intervenes they take it all the way to appeals court and see what happens. In my opinion, much of zoning law I’ve studied is basically pop culture stuff that looks good now but might look quite different twenty years from now. For example, there is the small house movement and sustainable house movement, but most zoning and land use laws make it illegal to do much of that stuff. Yeah, that can change, but man is it a slow process and none of us are getting any younger.

    Example: A guy near here has a ranch called “Sustainable Settings” where he does all sorts of cool educational stuff. But he doesn’t have commercial grade bathrooms, so the county essentially shut him down.

  19. Steve December 13th, 2010 7:21 pm

    I guess the bottom line is that Telski should have purchased the land for $180,000 in 2002.

  20. Steve December 13th, 2010 7:31 pm

    Good job Lou. Thank You.

  21. Mark December 13th, 2010 7:33 pm

    I think a lot of what he asserts about private property owners rights to defend against trespass and to make a profit on land sales to be fair. But his use of the term “entrapped” to characterize the position of inholders is a distortion. Inholdings were created by private parties claiming lands from the federal government for purposes enumerated by Congress in acts such as the 1872 Mining Law. The federally managed public lands did not “appear” around inholders, and in granting private claims Congress did not relinquish its right to dispose of surrounding federal lands in any manner it identifies as the public interest – such as creating a park or wilderness area. And his characterization of inholders as victims flies in the face of the gold mine new parks or wildernesses represent for inholders. Once a played mining claim, now the sole develop-able land. And not surrounded by lands subject to timber harvest, new mines, or other extractive uses; instead the inholders have a federally protected viewshed and soundscape. There may be cases where inholders lose value, but I know of no such case to stack against the many cases where the inholder made out very well, through direct sale to the government or increased recreational development potential.

  22. Lou December 13th, 2010 7:34 pm

    Steve, yeah, HUGE mistake. From a resort point of view in today’s freeski culture, that is one cool chunk of property for a variety of reasons, main one being access but way more than that.

  23. Coz T December 13th, 2010 7:38 pm

    Very interesting – thanks to Mr Chapman and Lou both for taking the time to put it together.

    There was one line about which I would like some further clarification. In response to Lou’s question about Mr. Chapman’s role in real estate, Chapman identified that one of his goals was to make a profit for his clients. He also mentioned that “Another [goal] would be to serve as a ‘check’ against the over-zealous portion of theenvironmental community and the sycophant politicians that pander to them for political gain.” I was hoping that Mr. Chapman could provide some clarification about what sorts of “overzealous” actions he feels he needs to be a check against.

  24. jerimy December 13th, 2010 7:46 pm

    Lou, any chance you could post the survey maps that Mr. Chapman refers to?

  25. Lou December 13th, 2010 7:51 pm

    Coz, I’ll be sure to relay that if Chapman would like to clarify.

  26. Lou December 13th, 2010 7:53 pm

    Jerimy, I’m working on the maps, they’re huge PDFs and I’m not sure my server can handle the multiple downloads. They’re also not that self explanatory unless you already know what you’re looking at. But I’ll keep at it. Thanks for asking.

  27. Lou December 13th, 2010 8:01 pm

    All, I wanted to clarify that Chapman had already written most of this and says he’d sent it around to some different publications but no one had published it yet. I say this in the interest of not taking credit for instigating it. All I did was do some editing and publish it as it seemed like perfect material for WildSnow, and I of course thank Mr. Chapman for giving us the opportunity to view his take, instead of hearing it second and third hand.

  28. Lou December 13th, 2010 8:06 pm

    More about the maps and surveys, actually, most are nicely sized but the Country GIS one is huge, and also hard to know what you’re seeing. I’m trying to improve that, but I’ll get all the stuff up ASAP.

  29. Tim M. December 13th, 2010 8:14 pm

    Hi Lou,

    Interesting story for sure. I’m surprised that you’ve caged this “interview” as an original interview with you. It’s my understanding that this interview was conducted, some three months ago, by Gus Jarvis of the Telluride Watch newspaper. Chapman has been widely distributing it to journalists as “his side of the story” because the Watch never published it. Nevertheless, it seems to me a disservice to the public to print it in a way that obfuscates its origin. The bottom line is Chapman doesn’t like to be interviewed and you obliged him. Perhaps I’m missing something? (but I doubt it).

    Tim Mutrie

  30. Mark December 13th, 2010 8:24 pm

    Just because the guy gives or tries to give the same interview to multiple interviewers doesn’t mean Lou is not an interviewer.

  31. Lou December 13th, 2010 8:28 pm

    Tim, I tried to make it clear that Chapman provided the text, and we did some editing to make it in to an interview for WildSnow. What happened with the text before that I didn’t think was a big deal, but perhaps it is to a journalist such as yourself. Yes, Chapman told me it was sent around for a while and never got published. I didn’t know anything about that and I’d never seen it up till a few days ago, so I guess I’m not included in the “wide” distribution that happened before? It was new to me and seemed appropriate to get it out there and totally on the up-and-up. Furthermore, what you see on this page has been changed via editing and re-writing by both Chapman and I. If another publication has a version they didn’t publish, that seems to be no big deal, that is unless Chapman agreed to some sort of exclusive I didn’t know about. In that case, I’d stand corrected and pull it down, but Chapman seemed very reasonable and easy to deal with, and never mentioned about any obligation to any certain publication. Next question?

    P.S., Just so I’m not doing a heinous disservice to the public, let me say more clearly that Thomas had already written his text when I received it. I then worked it into a form I thought was clear and concise for such a lengthy piece, and we both did quite a bit of editing. I could have used subheads instead of questions, but whatever, it seemed like the Q&A form was the best way to go…

    And again, can we get back to the subject?

  32. Tim M. December 13th, 2010 9:18 pm

    Lou, it’s totally appropriate to publish it. And also totally appropriate to be precise and transparent about where it came from.

  33. Lou December 13th, 2010 9:24 pm

    Got it Tim, thanks.

  34. Matt Kinney December 13th, 2010 9:28 pm

    Thank’s lou. That was very insightful. Chapman seems pretty savy. It interesting to read how he reasons…in depth.

  35. Lou December 13th, 2010 9:52 pm

    Let me tell you Matt, whether you agree with Chapman’s approach or not, the guy does his homework. Also, it’s amazing what goes on behind the scene with this stuff, heck, the surveys alone cost thousands and thousands, as do the appraisals and such, not to mention map making, and the time taken to deal with negotiating different deals, many of which never go anywhere.

    Beyond me publishing Chapman’s take pretty much word for word, the backstory I’ve gotten from him will inform my writing about these issues for years. I’ve learned all sorts of very interesting things that I’ve verified to be true. Or had things I already knew validated.

    For example, an issue these days is that country GIS departments do a lot of plotting of land boundaries using cords that are difficult to pick up off survey plots, and thus subject to error for that reason and many others. Then they may provide those same cords to the public as GPS cords that are subject to even more error. This with disclaimers, but who reads those? Instead, Joe Public goes out in the field and surveys with his trusty GPS and bases land use decisions on that, only to find out that what he was looking at is off by sometimes hundreds of feet!

    More, what burns my behind is still the biggie: Why are there not more people working on _preventing_ private land blockage? There are so many hard working well-meaning folks out there, but man are they working on some incredibly (in my opinion) misguided stuff around here. For example, a massive amount of energy is going into designating legal Wilderness next to roads and so near residential areas that is compromising everything from bicycle riding to dog walking. Man, if that same energy went into access issues and acquiring private land by fair means to further an agenda of conservation combined with recreation? Can you imagine what would happen!?

  36. ed December 13th, 2010 10:35 pm

    I hate to say it but Chapman seems to be a very intelligent man who has taken advantage of some very foolish decisions by people who may have been able to prevent these situations from arising.

    I do disagree with him that what he does is not a form of extortion. That is precisely what it is, albeit legal in this case. He buys a piece of property and threatens to (or actually does) change that property in a way that most people view as unsavory or damaging unless someone or a group comes in and purchases that property from him at a inflated price.

    Perhaps he isn’t evil, but he isn’t a saint either. I understand what he is doing, but I don’t think it is right.

    Lou and Tom, thank you for providing the interesting perspective on what is going on down in Telluride.

  37. Mark December 13th, 2010 11:02 pm

    just a note that there is absolutely nothing preventing congress from drawing wilderness boundaries around roads or from expressly permitting nonconforming uses in wilderness enabling legislation. it would be great if there were alternative designations that allowed for a wider mix of recreation activities but the US system lacks this. its pretty much multiuse or wilderness (or park but forget about that).

  38. skibum December 13th, 2010 11:33 pm

    @ tom chapman – the ‘small town media’ i/e telluride news et. al. would rather make you the new neil blue than accept their own mental reality of ‘i own it, so stay off mine.’ just ask sally about how she wanted to shut down the free box as it was to close to her house.
    of course, when you own a 110’x50′ lot with a clap board shack that you’re trying to sell to a mortgage company for $2.5mil you’ve got the right to think that way eh? stuff em bro. make them learn the valley floor lesson over. silverton ate crow for several years after jackson made them stay off his place. think ‘cabin run’.
    @ lou i would like to know more about what your intentions are, exactly- and will happily take the answer off line. a major concern of mine -personally- is your parking specifically. and, what your off road plan for it is.
    wexner and koch both bought private lands for the specific purpose of trading for public lands. koch was successful in his swap. how he managed to corrupt udall is a puzzler. maybe you know tom?
    lou you’ve already expressed an anti wexner opinion regarding the north side of sopris. i agree with you. call me prince charles of public land, but that slice is mine. i am prince public and wexner can’t have it. in regards to upper bear creek, the option was made available for years and none of the small towners took the bait.

  39. Thomas Chapman December 13th, 2010 11:00 pm

    Here’s clarification to your readers as to the actual facts regarding my “interview”: I rarely do interviews. In early September 2010 I was asked a series of email questions by reporter Gus Jarvis of The Telluride Watch regarding Bear Creek issues. I thought it appropriate the public should know what our intentions were, so I answered his questions straight up – no BS. At no time was there an agreement between me and The Watch as to “exclusivity”. I sent them an email answer. That email belongs to me. My answers are my property. I have never heard from The Watch since, now three months later. It is not my judgement to make as to whether my answers are worth anything to anybody — but I thought there might be a few people who would like to know the truth. When it became apparent that The Watch was going to sit on the info like a duck, I decided to redact the interview to just my generic answers. I put that out in the form of a press release, subsequently giving it by email to the competing newspaper, The Daily Planet, on Sept. 18, 2010. I gave it to Gary Harmon of the G.J. Daily Sentinel on Oct. 5, 2010. Both the Daily Planet and the Sentinel sat on it as well. Upon being contacted by freelance writer Kelley McMillan writing for Outside Magazine, I gave it to her on Dec. 10, 2010. Upon being contacted by Tim Mutrie of Powder Magazine, I gave it to him on Dec. 10, 2010. Unlike Jarvis, McMillan and Mutrie, Lou Dawson did not contact me. I happened to be reading his blog on Friday, Dec.10th, and decided, out of the blue, to send him the material. I’d never heard of Lou Dawson before last Friday, but I thought his first blog comments on this issue were reasonable, considering he had only one side of the story. Out of all of these people, Dawson is the only one who has told me he would be happy to publish my comments. Although the jist of the interview is similar, Dawson worked carefully with me to edit the material. I told him that The Watch had no exclusive rights, which is true. The Dawson questions are similar, but not the same. The answers are similar, but not the same. Hopefully, this will clarify and put to rest this issue. A more interesting question would be why does theTelluride media want to keep you in the dark? Thomas Chapman

  40. spudskier December 14th, 2010 1:00 am

    Well, as Mr. Chapman’s answers demonstrate, the devil is in the details…The one issue I’d research is the principle of prescriptive rights and/or adverse possession. Basically, you neglect to enforce your private property right of exclusivity for a long period, you allow others to use your property for a long time and a continued right of passage is eventually created. As I understand it Colorado law has a period of 17 years for that to become a valid claim. If a private parcel is used “open and notoriously” , even without permission, with no enforcement of no trespassing-then at some point the trespasser can claim a right to continued access. In some cases an adjacent landowner can actually acquire ownership of the others property if it has been used continuously for 17 years. I don’t know how or if these principles apply in Bear Creek, but seems to me it makes the sudden exclusion of skiers a little less legitimate if a prescriptive right can be claimed and established. I’m guessing the parcel has been skied on for decades and yet the owner never enforced the closure. I also have to wonder how valid the right of way claim is. Mr Chapman mentioned Colorado water rights- first in time, first in right. True enough, but its also true if you do not use your water right for a period of time, it can be considered abandoned and lost.

    Overall, I appreciate Lou for bringing this to us, and Mr. Chapman certainly has many persuasive points. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the County Commissioners would have the right to deny his housing development plans because the access is too steep and does not meet Fire Code standards. People build up steep roads and then expect fire and EMS and UPS service yet the road is way dangerous. People even sue public entities fo r letting the house burn down . And what about domestic water and so and wastewater disposal and wildfire defensible space? As Lou will remember, fire fighters died in Glenwood Springs. The homebuilders in Bear Creek would want fire fighters to come put out the fire around that house built in those fire-prone trees, right? I see the County Commissioners could clearly delay or deny a development plan for years. Anyone hoping to develop up there would have no sense of certainty for approval and would be looking at years of studies, meetings, lawsuits, vandalism (ala Vail) and headaches. Telluride is known for overstepping develoment rights on the flat valley floor, why wouldn’t they use the steep, environmentally sensitive, poor access arguments to deny Bear Creek Development? So, that reduces the land’s price in my mind, if I was an nvestor. Besides, real estate deals in ski country are opening up, why mess with such a difficult parcel? The right thing to do is for the resort to buy the land at a price less than 350K and more than 130K. Call it good at $240,000 and let Telski build or ski whatever there….. Then we can get back to the merits of rocker ski tips and no camber, freerides or markers after dynafits, and the important stuff, right?

  41. Colin December 14th, 2010 4:55 am

    spudskier hit it all squarely on the head.

    Those’re the issues that will ultimately decide this–in court, or otherwise.

    Thanks for publishing the interview, Lou. And Thanks, Mr. Chapman, for granting Lou the publishing opportunity and for commenting.

  42. Lou December 14th, 2010 6:04 am

    Skibum, I emailed you with my phone number. Call me.

  43. Lou December 14th, 2010 6:09 am

    Thanks Thomas for commenting with the details of how your writing came about. And again thanks for sharing your side of the story.

  44. Lou December 14th, 2010 6:14 am

    Spudskier, good comment, but remember (re your comment about me knowing about Glenwood Springs fire fighters) that I’m not advocating for Chapman’s position here with this post and comment thread, only acting as a publisher of his words and your comments.

  45. Njord December 14th, 2010 8:42 am

    Looks like Telski screwed the pooch by not buying the property…. 180K should be a drop in the bucket for them! Nothing like being short-sighted!

  46. Clint Viebrock December 14th, 2010 9:24 am

    There have been many comments about extortion, private land rights, etc. It was interesting to hear Chapman’s take on all of this, and thanks for publishing.

    At the end of the day, it still looks like using the private land argument to deny access, and in the longer view, to turn back the clock with regard to public land protection.

    And the threat to use Telluride Trail/See Forever ski runs as the access to the Bear Creek holdings? That’s not extortion? Give me a break.

  47. Bob Berwyn December 14th, 2010 10:02 am

    Lou, are you saying your wrote the questions AFTER you had the answers? Boy, I’d like to be able to do that with some of my interviews.

  48. pioletski December 14th, 2010 10:02 am

    Hmmm. We don’t want people skiing across our property… but we’ll sue our neighbors for the right to maintain a road across theirs. Just sayin.’ This is a complex and interesting situation, and I have a lot to say about it, but I’m going skiing first.

  49. Lou December 14th, 2010 10:19 am

    Bob, yeah, pretty funny, eh? The way it worked is that as mentioned previous, Chapman had already written the answers to another interview, and he’d been emailing those around as a sort of press release, so I worked with him to do some re-writing and editing, and to stick our own questions in there that would act as subheads to make it more readable. The questions are similar to those of the original interview, due to the answers, but we purposefully wrote them ourselves (me writing, Tom mostly approving) so there wouldn’t be any ownership issues. I could have easily published without the questions as one big long screed, and tried to break it up with subheads or sections. But since Tom had already written his take as “answers,” that’s the way we did it. If this had been published elsewhere I would have of course just linked to it, but it had not been published, and I was getting sick of reading the same stuff in the papers over and over again so publishing the “other side” seemed pretty cool and the perfect use of the web. Chapman contacted me first. I’d never thought of trying to contact him, as he’s not prone to granting interviews and such.

    What is nice about this is I was able to publish Chapman verbatim and totally approved by him, without the usual editing and chopping necessary in print media for the simple reason of space constraints, or the sometimes more nefarious reason of editors not liking what someone has to say.

    So, beyond all that Bob, what’s your opinion about all this? Let’s get beyond picking apart the writing style…

  50. Mogul'r December 14th, 2010 10:28 am

    Finally some insight into this story. Shame, shame, shame on the local Telluride papers for burying this information.

    Thank you Lou and WildSnow for doing the right thing!

    Ps> recent stories in the TDP and TW implied and led readers to believe Mr. Chapman was not only unavailable ,but willingly unavailable. DR (Telski CEO) isn’t it a little unnerving that the newspapers you were providing interviews to were also withholding this interview and information from you? And even worse, for several months (DR seemed openly frustrated in recent interviews).

    Careful not to tow the liberal fanatical line in Telluride…or you’ll have the CAVE possy chasing you out of town (citizens against virtually everything)

  51. Lou December 14th, 2010 10:31 am

    CAVE, great, LOL, Aspen has a chapter of that club, and so do we here in Carbondale! I think I’ve even succumbed to the siren call of the club a few times. Human nature, probably…

  52. Bob Berwyn December 14th, 2010 10:49 am

    Lour, I have no problem with your writing style. Wild Snow is one of my favorite all-time books. And you gave full disclosure as to how the copy was obtained and structured. It’s actually an interesting way to build a story and it is more engaging than simple subheads.

    In any future scenarios, you could reserve the right to at least ask a few follow-up questions, otherwise it kind of comes off as a Larry King marshmallow-type interview. Following up and challenging assertions based on a reporter’s background knowledge of the issues is one of the fundamental concepts of interviewing.

    As far as substance, I don’t buy much of it. Chapman as defender of private property rights? I don’t think so. He can take us on a verbal merry-go-round, but the record shows he’s in the business of getting control of inholdings and then trying to get something for them. It’s not all that complicated. And part of the reason he agreed to have this published is so that he could get that pie-in-sky development scheme into the public record as a way of adding perceived value to the land.

    But thanks a ton for running it. It’s an interesting read, for sure!

  53. Matt Kinney December 14th, 2010 10:50 am

    My questions after being better informed:.

    1. There must be a distinct difference between “patent” and “private” lands. I and many others actually own private land. Patent lands in 1892 were used to encourage mining and Manifest Destiny stuff, not lodging with hot tubs for recreational skiers in 2010
    Chapman’s land is a mining patent, not a homestead but he talks like he actually owns the land. He just owns the patent. I actually own my land. He is selling a patent, not private land. My rights as an actual landowner far excede his patent lands rights which require him to “mine”, which he is not. Obviously by Chapman stating that he “intends” to mine. is sufficient to keep the patent. This is a common theme with miners across American squatting on public they actually do not own and doing nothing with it. I’m sure the Chapman’s land would sell for tons more if he could build mansions on it, but that would violate the patent.
    In 1892, if you wanted private land for a family farm you simply went the way of the Homestead Act. There must be a difference between the two types of lands in how they can be used and or regulated.
    In Alaska’s National Parks, there is a mix of mining patents and homestead inholdings and they are each treated very differently by the Park Service.

    2. What is the deal with above and below surface rights? I assume if one possesses below surface rights then crossing over said land would not be trespass unless it is actually being mined. There is lots of patent mining claims around Valdez and unless the “mine ” is being worked, then the miner can not prevent you from crossing unless he also retains surface rights..

    The USFS is required with all its use permits to take into account “negative impacts to adjacent lands”. I assume that Chapman thinks skier tracking up his mining claims is a negative and the USFS agrees with his reasoning.

  54. Lou December 14th, 2010 10:58 am

    Bob, thanks for getting into it! I can indeed ask Chapman some other questions, and I’d actually love to do so over the next few days, but that’ll have to wait as I’ve got some field work to do!

  55. Tom Gos December 14th, 2010 11:07 am

    This is interesting to read, but of course it’s only one side of the story. I’m still skeptical, and I can see some holes in Chapman’s plans. First, if the avalanche danger is so severe that people shouldn’t be skiing there, as Chapman alludes to in his statements, then how is he going to mitigate that in order to create his proposed development? Will he want to perform avalanche control work for his benefit on on adjacent public or private lands? If so, that could create an interesting turn of the table. Second, and I’m not all at familiar with Chapman’s history, but it sounds like he is a realtor and not a developer. In my expierience, realtors often dream of being developers but rarely succed at it. Realtors are basically sales people. Do he and his partners really have the skills and means to pull of a development like this? Perhaps the FS et al don’t believe they do and are calling their bluff. Third, does Chapman have water rights to support his proposed development? Water does not come with the land, so he may not, and if not his development plan is DOA. Fourth, it does sound as though there may be grounds for somebody to be granted a prescirptive access easement, perhaps the FS. As I understand trespass in Colorado, you’re only trespassing if someone tells you that you have to stay out, and I doubt that the current and former land owners had their property posted over it’s 100+ year history. If someone has been traveling across the property for a long period of time, and was never told not to, then they could be granted an easement on the property. All in all this sounds like it is shaping up to be one of Colorado’s great long running land disputes, and that eventually one or more judges will be involved. I suspect it will be many years before this is concluded and Chapman is able to begin any sort of development.

  56. Bob Berwyn December 14th, 2010 11:11 am

    Lou, Go get that field work done!

  57. Lou December 14th, 2010 11:13 am

    Tom, good insights, I think we can come up with some answers to some of that eventually. Thanks for the comment!

  58. Lou December 14th, 2010 11:45 am

    I’ve got a bunch of maps here that I’ll be publishing parts of, out of of time at the moment. Really interesting stuff.

  59. Andrew December 14th, 2010 11:51 am

    As a Wasangles resident, I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear all of this! 🙂

    Having attended many public hearings on similar issues in Park City and the Cottonwood Canyons, you will be dismayed to know that zoning, Planning Commissions and County Commissions are but mere speedbumps on the Developers Highway. Ownership trumps everything, EXCEPT the Big Three – public Health, Safety & Welfare. You can get around County codes regarding building on steep slopes by constructing massive retaining walls. Fertilized golf courses can be built in pristine watersheds if you treat the water before dumping it back into the stream. You can put local stores out of business as long as you replace them with a business of your own. It’s the American Dream.

    The catch with land like this is whether or not the developer will really jump through all the EPA hoops and incur the cost of developing the land or whether they are just bluffing and hoping to sell it for a quick profit.

  60. Lou December 14th, 2010 11:59 am

    Andrew, good points. Having spoken with and emailed back and forth with Chapman now, I get a sense he’s not bluffing, but rather just taking it as far as he and his associates can go. They’ll either develop the land as much as they can, or sell it to whomever… beyond that, I’d have to be a mind reader to know if there was any bluffing involved.

  61. Chester T December 14th, 2010 1:15 pm

    The issue of trespass across private lands is one close to my heart. But my situation was different: I lived there. I was broken into, shot at and harassed requiring me to spend significant money to uphold my property rights. Every level of government was useless.

    This situation is very different.

    What strikes me as a very thin veneer is the intent to develop the land in any way. I’m reading something far more obvious in Mr. Chapman’s intent: to get extravagantly more out of a passive investment than he’s putting into it.

    Obviously Telski or the town should have bought the property from Dr. Greene way back when. But since they didn’t and since Mr. Chapman seems to be taking a rather hard line, there are a number of options:

    0) Purchase an easement from the Gold Hills Association.
    1) Use Adverse Use to establish the publics right of access (Adverse use is a legal principle that allows ongoing use if the landowners haven’t historically prevented it.)
    2) Following Silverton’s example of dealing with Jim Jackson: threaten to declare a right of way using condemnation and negotiate a reasonable settlement.

  62. gringo December 14th, 2010 1:26 pm

    A few points:
    Telluride Locs dropped the ball here. In the USA you have to take for granted the due to the ridiculous liability laws any piece of private land can be shut down by a concerned owner. For 180 grand someone SHOULD have made that purchase happen….for that low price, for that huge parcel, for that location. T-ride folks have good reason to be worried, but they only have themselves to blame.

    -Lou, the is an issue now in Austria that the upcoming World Cup stop in Kitzbuhel ( I believe) being threatened by a landowner who may not give his access permission this year. The area in question is only about 500 Sqm. but its right in the finishing area. The skiers right of access is not a given, but people are more sane normally and the USA style of liability BS is not as much of a concern. I would provide a link, but can’t find it now that I want to reference it….of course.

  63. Lou December 14th, 2010 1:42 pm

    Gringo, I’m not very well versed in that Austrian access law, it must have variations, perhaps for things such as commercial use. But several people have told me that as a backcountry skier or hiker you can go just about anywhere you want in the countryside.

  64. Daniel Dunn December 14th, 2010 2:17 pm

    Lou, thanks for publishing this article, and thanks go out to Tom Chapman for being a part of it. I’ve learned a lot through this discussion, and maybe more importantly, now have a new level of respect and interest in what happens in my own backyard, being Breckenridge, and Summit County. While I still don’t want to take Tom out to dinner and buy him a beer, I do absolutely respect him, and the amount of homework and hard work he puts in to his projects. As a business owner myself, I can definitely see the correlation between all those things, and I can see why he is a wealthy man.
    Keep up the great work Lou, and I can’t believe you put this out there, knowing better than anyone the verbal lashings you would receive for doing it. Thanks!

  65. Lou December 14th, 2010 2:28 pm

    Daniel, nicely put! I’ve not been flamed too much yet, as I tried to make it clear I wasn’t suddenly advocating for Chapman, but rather just trying to be a venue for him to have a say in public, and acknowledging there are two sides to almost any issue such as this.

    Mainly, I’m on a mission to keep prodding people to wake up to how this sort of thing is just going to continue forever unless money and energy are put into access issues, now, not later. We do need a Colorado recreation access non-profit. I wish I had more time and money, I’d start it myself.

    In the end, this sort of thing makes moaning about snowmobiles on Vail Pass look pretty meager…meaning I think we need to get our priorities in order.

  66. SkiFree December 14th, 2010 3:13 pm

    It seems to me that people are really missing the point here.
    Bear Creek is a ‘backyard’ playground to locals of Telluride and ski enthusiasts. Closing this area is like closing town park.

    The underlying factor is that Chapman, although savy… is an ***. If he cared, he would give the locals and the people who love to ski back there the opportunity to keep doing it. He may hate Telski and clearly wants to make money, but what about the small people… Chapman is breaking hearts, and more than anything else people feel they have lost a best friend with the closure of Bear Creek. Think about the individuals who would ski back there to clear their minds, or the people who challenged themselves physically back there, the first accents, the clean air, the sense of accomplishment…. all of that gone! Thanks for taking away a sense of pride and a feeling of love!

    Although Bear Creek can be a bit risky, the majority of people skiing/riding back there know what they are doing. Telski decided to offer guided skiing back there to keep people safe, so that people who weren’t trained could still ski safely. What isn’t noted in the article is that Telski didn’t trespass any land (Telski chose an exit that didn’t cross Dr. Greenberg’s land and the West family hadn’t said anything to Telski until Chapman came along).

    So Chapman says he doesn’t want people crossing his land for liability reasons… tell me, out of all the deaths, incidents, rescue missions, breaks, tears, ANYTHING back there, had anyone ever tried to sue a private land owner… I didn’t think so!

    Chapman clearly went after Telski in this situation, but it is clear that he only cares about himself or he would have thought about all the people this would be affecting.

  67. Lou December 14th, 2010 3:40 pm

    SkiFree, I hear you, but I have to ask, did you guys just think you were going to ski up there forever with all that private property all over the place? Whether it be from Chapman, or the other land owner, something had to give is now abundantly obvious after all the rah rah bro bra hype about Bear Creek had me thinking it was just another cool place on USFS land. I guess it’s just human nature, apathy, wait for the next generation to fix things, whatever. I know I could do more, but I don’t, yet this deal has me thinking…

  68. Naton December 14th, 2010 4:01 pm

    “1. Reopen the multiple existing gold and silver mines on the various claims, utilizing the historic and still existing Gold Hill Road to remove ore to processing plants, subject to a pending minerals analysis showing this option to be economically viable.
    2. Construct a 1000 square foot European-style rock chalet on the westerly portion of the Little Bessie parcel, just below below Gold Hill Ridge, just above lift 15, just over the ridge from the Telski “chute” runs, in the area known locally as the “Delta Bowl.”’

    These are not real goals. Do you think there is perhaps a reason the mines are inactive? There is nothing to mine there. 1000 sq foot euro rock chalet? These are invented claims created to piss off the community and rally support to keep this from happening – by buying him out for some ludicrous price.

  69. Scott Spencer December 14th, 2010 4:10 pm

    I have documeted video skiing across this land more than
    17 years ago I would be happy to dig up and provide if it
    helps any of you lawyers out there.
    This land is not developable and is not ever going to
    be. Mining is not an option either it is extortion any way you look at it. If
    Mr Chapman was so into wilderness you would think he would
    at least know who Lou Dawson is. He says he had never heard of
    him before last Friday. He must not be much into 14ners. How could
    you live in Colorado that long and never have picked up one of Lou’s
    books? Thanks for getting this out there intresting reading.
    As a person that has and will continue to ski in that area I cant wait
    for someone to try to enforce this you can access it many ways that are not
    from the ski area. 200 people a day has never happened. Lots of misinformation here. I’ll stop now but thanks again Lou if ever in Telluride
    email me I will hook you up with lodging.

  70. chris blatter December 14th, 2010 4:18 pm

    Lou- I’ve been following this and other land use / ownership in and around T’ride for years. And I’ve been reading WildSnow for a fewyears..Thanks for having T.Chapman in discussion with you.
    I’m going to watch this develop because I own 45 acres of patented mining claims in San Juan County that are also skied by folks that skin up to them. At this point I have no intention of posting my lands as private, stay out, and I will not be liable for any incidents / accidents on my claims (no matter what the courts say). I now have all permits required to build my mountain cabin and will start construction next spring using helicopter for freight because there is no existing road to my lands and I do not intend to make one.
    I have mixed feelings re: Tom and his land owner rights vs. the backcountry skiing public. Lets say for now I’m glad I can watch this play out in an alpine valley that I am not involved with…but I will miss skinning up K12 and ripping down Bear Creek to a beer at the “Buck”.
    Chris Blatter Palisade, Condorado

  71. Matthew Beaudin December 14th, 2010 4:36 pm

    Hello all…

    As the editor of one of Telluride’s newspapers — The Daily Planet — I am compelled to speak up.

    First off, Lou, I’m a big fan of the site, always have been. Thanks for putting some information out there that wasn’t previously. Everyone deserves to be heard, and the web is a very good forum for that. Cheers to you for getting this out.

    And now, to the matter at hand…

    This text, or a past iteration, was made available to me by Mr. Chapman some time ago, but, since it came from a competing newspaper’s reporter — or at least his questions — I felt it best to stay clear of publishing it as our own work. I have, repeatedly, called Mr. Chapman seeking comment, which he has sometimes — not always, though — declined. Lately, he has referred comments to the above text, which was not ideal for the paper, as it didn’t come from me or my staff’s work. We have tried, and will continue to do so.

    We aren’t out to bury any information or to report only the “woe is Telluride” part of the story, but it so happens that those are the people willing to talk at this point. I will keep trying to get all angles of this into the stories and hope for more success in the future. I can’t blame Mr. Chapman for not commenting on everything all the time, of course.

    To the assumption that we are publishing false information in regard to the thought that the claims themselves link up… we’re going off maps we looked at over the summer, and the last TDP story on the matter didn’t say anything was certain, only that they may not form a solid “fence,” if you will. We’ve printed Chapman’s maps that claim it does as well. If there is a new map I should know about, or a new survey of the area done, we will most certainly publish the most current information. It’s not in the mine, nor the newspaper’s, interest, to keep things hidden.

    Thanks for the chance to comment, and I look forward to the continued discourse. If there’s anything I should know about, please e-mail me at ATTN BEAR CREEK CLAIMS. (the proper subject makes things easy to find)



  72. inholdingsmogul December 14th, 2010 5:46 pm

    Complaining that your property is not portrayed correctly on the local GIS site is like complaining that GoogleEarth didn’t get a good photo of your garden.

  73. Robert December 14th, 2010 5:50 pm

    Interesting read and follow up comments. Maybe you could seed the maps you got from Mr. Chapman on bit torrent. This would allow us to download them without taking down you server. If you need help with this, I’d be glad to do the leg work.

  74. Seppo December 14th, 2010 6:22 pm

    I think everyone has forgotten Rusty Nichols and his blockade of the trail to Wilson Peak. If people keep pushing land owners instead of asking land owners this will always be the result. By the way “Ski Free” just as a point of reference, telski never asked or got written permission from any of the land owners back there. Very much their mistake for taking advantage of a neighbor that most likely would have worked with them had they been asked.

  75. pioletski December 14th, 2010 8:47 pm

    Lou, I agree about the need for an access non-profit organization in Colorado, and I too would start one if I had time and money to spare (and expertise, and, and…). Keep me posted on that.

    I am reminded of the situation years ago having to do with the very popular backcountry ski trail into the South Boulder Creek drainage near the east portal of the Moffat Tunnel, west of Rollinsville. The first 3/4 mile or so of the trail is straddled by a private ranch, and traditionally the owner had allowed access and even helped maintain the trail. Then, once upon a time, he leased the land to a group called the American Sportsmens’ Club. The ASC closed the trail and posted an armed guard at the entrance. The backcountry skiing community (largely represented by the Colorado Mountain Club) saw this as a blatant attempt to secure private access to all the national forest land above the ranch. The CMC had built a small cabin for skiers to use, near Rogers Pass Lake. There was other access, mainly over Rogers Pass from the Winter Park area, but that was a very long and arduous trip; for all practical purposes, the ASC had succeeded. Talk turned to drastic measures, like getting the Forest Service to condemn a right-of-way – a nasty, acrimonious process at best – but in the end the ranch owner terminated the lease, and public access was restored.

    This had quite an effect on me as I was just a kid, watching it all happen to one of my favorite places on earth, and it largely formed my attitude toward access to this day. I hold private property rights in high regard. I also see public land – BLM, National Forest, etc – as “belonging” to all Americans, myself included, and consider access to it a basic right, on par with other private property rights.

    Regarding Mr. Chapman’s company’s intentions – a huge can of worms is being opened. I foresee years of legal wrangling before anything happens. Much as I respect his rights to privacy and enjoyment of his land (and I’m not quite sure what that means on a mining claim that hasn’t been worked in years), IF this would deny public access to public lands I would side with the skiing riff-raff. Clearly, the simplest solution would be for someone (like Telski) to buy him out, but I think it’s naive to expect that Mr. Chapman’s company would accept $350k, 500k or even $1M – he is looking to make serious money off this, one way or another.

  76. Tim M. December 14th, 2010 9:15 pm

    Warning: This story was not edited prior to publication by any private land owners up Bear Creek Canyon–

  77. Chris Beh December 15th, 2010 8:52 am

    The Colorado Mountain Club is taking up the issue of winter access in Colorado with what they call The Backcountry Snowsports Initative. Here’s the link.

  78. Kidd December 15th, 2010 9:25 am

    We need our legislators to finally solve this 1872 mining law mess. This has been happening all too frequently here in Colorado, and doesn’t seem to be a problem in other states. If people in Telluride knew Champman ‘owned’ this land then they should have known his reputation and bought the land from him in 2002.
    The county can condemn his property and buy it for a song, just like San Juan county did to Jim Jackson of Aspen with his mining claims around Velocity Basin.
    And this didn’t take that long to accomplish. Look into the making of Silverton ski area and you’ll see a lot of land grabbing.
    Too bad this country is run by Lawyers, the rest of the Industrial world doesn’t have our attitudes get rich quick by suing.

  79. Andrew December 15th, 2010 11:15 am

    Reopening existing mining claims is a time-honored way for new land owners to avoid having to do any clean up of toxic waste on old mines. It is the mountain version of a 10,000 acre “working ranch” with seven bison on it.

  80. mike moulton December 15th, 2010 12:26 pm

    The mining claims loophole isn’t all bad. An activist was able to stop a huge gold mining operation in Nevada by spending very little money for some old claims scattered around the area. And he’s now in a big legal battle. But unfortunately mining claims and grazing rights are also a cheap way to shut people out. They are laws that should probably be history.

  81. Covert December 15th, 2010 4:42 pm

    An analogy comes to mind. Speed limit is 55 on a hwy, you get some guy who parks in the left lane and pegs the cruise control at 55. He’s the type of guy who’d say “Get off my ass!! I’m not breaking any laws!!” Gold HIll is that guy, legal yes, prudent or courteous, no.

  82. Anne-Britt Ostlund December 15th, 2010 8:07 pm

    @ Matt Kinney December 14th, 2010 10:50 am
    “. . .There must be a distinct difference between “patent” and “private” lands.”

    Patented mining claims were a way to transfer full property rights, same as a homestead claim, couldn’t raise cows here so if someone ‘worked the claim in some fashion related to mining’ the were given their patent, more info:

  83. Telluride Liberation Front December 15th, 2010 9:59 pm

    Poach that ***!

  84. TellurideFreePress December 16th, 2010 6:58 am

    This is an amazing piece of work and Mr. Chapman’s post is right on target in regards to our local media. There are always two sides to every story…except in Telluride.
    Thank you for this interview.

  85. Lou December 16th, 2010 8:34 am

    Anne and all, once a mining claim is patented, it becomes private land. Much of associated impressions and rhetoric are simply the result of semantics or nomenclature. In the case of Chapman and associated folks, they own land, period. Calling their land “mining claims,” or “claims,” is yet another thing the obfuscates the real issue, which is quite simply that if private land gets in the way of public good, the affected people don’t like that. Really, at this point that is the only issue in Bear Creek!

    To explain more, back in the 1800’s and early 1900’s it was incredibly easy to patent a claim. All you had to do was stake it out, spend some money on it, and a few other things that were easy to do, and you ended up owning the land. That’s why all over our fair land there is a massive amount of private land which was created from patented claims. I’ve run into misinformed people who have the impression that since a piece of property has origins as a “claim,” it somehow has a high likelihood of containing mineral wealth. The reality is the vast majority of “claims” were simply shots in the dark, and again, ended up as private land due the relative ease of patenting a claim.

    What’s more, even many (if not most) of the famous mines out here in the west that had massive amounts of capital sunk into them never produced a profit, or eventually went bust due to economics or lodes running out. Though they did produce some private land.

    And in terms of the present, try starting a mine in Colorado near legal Wilderness or recreational areas such as ski resorts. Doing so is nearly impossible due to everything from public sentiment, to environmental laws, to powerful County Commissioners who can make it so incredibly difficult you give up before you even start. Indeed, if Chapman and associates try to do some mining up there that’s more than hobby mining or mineral analysis, I’ll believe it when I see it happen.

    Above said, many of you might know that a hobby mine and associated private land exists smack dab in the middle of Aspen Mountain ski area, with associated rights of egress and access for the owners, who even have a cabin at the portal that they can pretty much do what they want with. Look at that, and you know Chapman and associates could perhaps do something similar, so if you’re calling BS on Chapman’s mining ideas in his above writing, think again.

    As for those of you concerned about old mining laws, indeed there are antiquated laws out there now (in many arenas). But try to stake out a nice hunk of Federal or state land as a mining claim, then patent it. Good luck. Things have changed.

  86. Lou December 16th, 2010 8:55 am

    Free Press, over the years I’ve had a few journalists contact me, take a bunch of my time in a phone interview or email Q&A, and seen nothing come of it. After a few times, I started getting pretty annoyed. When Chapman contacted me it sounded like the same thing was happening to him and he was not amused. The rest is history, and now we’ve heard his story.

    The next step is for folks in Telluride to step up, explore the options, and work something out. It sounds like that’s probably happening. But sitting around writing about Chapman and calling him names is not what I mean by “work something out.” In fact, in any sort of negotiation or business deal, once you resort to insults and such you pretty much discredit yourself and take yourself out of the picture. Those of you who wallow in such things might want to keep that in mind.

    Yeah, it’s fun to pick a villain and rail on them, doing so is one of the easiest writing devices and conversational tricks. I do it on occasion myself, and have been taken to task for it here. But if I had this much at stake I’d probably try to get past that… will people in Telluride, and some of the commenters here? We shall see.

    For the record, as a backcountry skiing and public recreation advocate, I’d most certainly like to see Chapman and other Bear Creek land owners take a different approach, such as the public easement for backcountry skiers I helped with creating across what was then Martina Martina Navratilova’s land up near Aspen a number of years ago. But that’s not what’s happening here and though reality bites, it exists.

    Would Chapman and the other Bear Creek land owners be open to selling a few easements to a citizen’s group? Has anyone started on putting together a concrete offer for such a thing? If such a group had $10 for every time people have called Chapman a dirty name, I’ll bet they could do such a thing tomorrow. Interesting thought, anyway…

  87. inholdingsmogul December 16th, 2010 12:00 pm

    Simple question: If trespassing and liability were such big concerns, why has the property never been posted, flagged or fenced? (To this day!) Landowners everywhere else in Colorado do not rely on the USFS and the media to prevent unwanted use. They post “No Trespassing” and “No Hunting” signs and fence their lines. What was expected of the skiers in years past ? Should they have carefully studied the 100 yr. old maps for the entire region and then hired a surveyor to show them all relevant private property?

    BTW – I know it is convenient to use Telluride’s big, wealthy, liberal reputation to garner support in the public debate of this issue. However, this belies the fact that the average person skiing in this area has historically been a dishwasher, carpenter or waitress, whose net worth hovered around $6000 (1 pickup, 5 pairs of skis, 1 labrador and an ipod).

  88. Lou December 16th, 2010 12:11 pm

    Inholdings, don’t forget the $6,000 mountain bike. 😀

    Seriously though, the USFS actually does work with private land owners on issues that affect trespass on their land, this especially when it comes to trailheads and roads. But yeah, if you can’t or don’t post your land, it’s ridiculous to expect people not to cross it if they need to or want to, especially if they don’t even know exactly where the boundaries are! What exactly will happen in this vein with Bear Creek we’ll only know when we see it, but it’s going to be tough to post land that avalanches run over…

  89. Mary Duffy December 16th, 2010 1:24 pm

    Wow Lou, taking credit for an interview done by Gus Jarvis. Don’t you think that is a bit unethical?

  90. Lou December 16th, 2010 1:59 pm

    Mary, I didn’t take credit for Chapman’s writing, nor did I say this was an interview conducted by me. I thought I made it clear how it came about. It is a construct in interview format, a not uncommon form, actually. But if I didn’t do a good enough job with the explanation of origin I’ll try to make it more clear and add something to the intro or something. No wish to do something unethical. Perhaps I made a mistake using the Q&A format in terms of causing confusion with origin. If so, sorry. But the blog post is 99% Chapman’s writing, with the remainder being questions I came up with that are no doubt similar to the original ones, but were intentionally written by me so as not to be taking someone else’s work.

    Did you pick up on the facts in the post above and associated comments? Chapman took quite a bit of time to write answers to a short series of questions from Jarvis. They didn’t get published for some reason, so Chapman sent the interview around, as well as a version without the questions. I liked the interview form so Chapman and I worked on it to edit and do a bit of re-writing for WildSnow, I whipped up a new set of questions that are no doubt similar to the original ones but different by intent, and we published. It was Chapman’s right to pick who he allowed to publish his writing. He gave me permission and I did it. Gus could have requested an exclusive and Chapman told me Gus had not, and that as far as Chapman was concerned he owned his own writing, so he could give me permission to publish.

    Perhaps I caused some confusion. No wish to do that. I just want to let someone have their unfiltered say in a matter.

    If this is an issue that obfuscates the real issues here, heck, I’ll add more explanation to the intro.

    In fact, I’ll edit the intro right now to be more clear.

  91. Thetruth December 16th, 2010 2:04 pm

    Wow Mary Duffy ragging on the only person with guts enough to get the news out. Gus Jarvis sould not even be able to call himself a reporter after sitting on this story since Sept. Shame on him. Also just for the record it was telluride ski and golf CEO Dave Rieley who asked the USFS in a recent meeting to close the gates into bear creek. So if you want to blame someone for not being able to access bear creek blame the right person, And that’s the truth!

  92. Lou December 16th, 2010 2:28 pm

    One more thing, Mary, did you see Chapman’s comment above? It makes everything very clear. The only credit I’d take is that of editing and publishing Chapman’s writing. I’m happy we were able to do that, and have no wish for questions of origin to be either inadvertently or deliberately used to obfuscate the real issues here.

    Oh, one other thing, perhaps my blog byline on this post is confusing. It’s a blog, so posts I put together tend to have my name on them, but in this case I’m the EDITOR. Clear?

    I could have used our “Editors” byline, but that seemed too impersonal after doing quite a bit of communication with Chapman.

  93. Lou December 16th, 2010 2:38 pm

    To try and get away from this petty stuff, I changed the “author” squib at the top of the post to “Guest Blogger.” It probably should have been that from the beginning, since nearly every bit of the post was written by Mr. Chapman.

  94. Lou December 16th, 2010 2:50 pm

    BTW, credit where credit is due, check out this excellent stuff about access issues around the west, published in Telluride Watch yesterday:

    They also published some of the Chapman content in another piece.

  95. Lou December 16th, 2010 3:21 pm

    As stated before, I’ve got a bunch of Bear Creek graphics that I’m trying to find time to scan and post. I just scanned a photo out of the Telluride Off-Piste guide (with permission) that I published within Chapman’s piece. Check it out, shows some of the more definite private land blockage.

  96. Mary Duffy December 16th, 2010 3:25 pm

    The interview was conducted by journalist Gus Jarvis for an article in Telluride Magazine. Our publication schedule is set, and we don’t issue our magazine until the ski area opens. Jarvis has no control over this.

    The article is published, you can see the digital version at

    As I wrote in my blog, modern media has made is difficult to retain ownership and control of ones work.

    And you are correct, they are Chapman’s words. But I do think credit should be given where credit is due, as Tim Mutrie did in his article for Powder.

  97. Lou December 16th, 2010 3:47 pm

    Well Mary, it sounds like there was some possible miscommunication here. The main thing I think Chapman was concerned about was that his words were published in there entirety, without any editing or chopping not approved by him. It appears he now has had this done here, and perhaps elsewhere, so good. Next time, you guys might want to make it clearer with your interview subject what your plans are, as Chapman sounded very sincere about the lack of publication plans. Furthermore, Chapman is very confident that his words could be passed around by him for publication. Making a deal with him for an exclusive would have been wise, and prevented pesky things like WildSnow ending up publishing his words. That’s the way I would have approached it from the start, anyway.

  98. Bryce "Dudeman" Wilson December 16th, 2010 4:01 pm

    Hey,hey Lou hope the holidays find you well fed and in family company…This is astonishing to me on several levels wouldn’t know where to begin…I have been following the chatter since the ski season started. From the Couloir days I would have to say that we seem to be going backwords in our backcountry progression, as its perceived by some of these folks involved. In so many ways its a true shame. For that land to have been available for as long as it was that cheap in that area, shame on the people around there for not taking advantage of that sooner. The biggest shame on them should go to the resort for not digging around a little bit and acquiring the land when they had the chance. I thought ski areas had master plans that outlined their general ideals for numerous years, with that said, what were they thinking when they put the Revelation lift in? I mean gosh did they assume everyone would ride the lift out? Really.

    Anyhow, guess I know how to spend my off time, search for “inholding” lands near ski resorts…Some of the people here early on were “risk vs. Liability” it was expalined to me early in my skiing that if you don’t like the rules at the ski areas here in the U.S. then go ski in Europe. I have and its great, go where you want and when you want. You’ll still want card l’neige just incase you actually live from the fall you sustain, 😉 the country your in can bill you for the rescue.
    I’ll rap up with this there is a piece of choice real estate between Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows…It was great you could come from either resort ski t5he many glades it offered or drop the many sick rocks. Well it was and I believe still is owned by Troy Caldwell (now called White Wolf) He also owned the land that housed the top of a couple of prominent lifts at Sqauw. Everything was fine until some one got hurt on the backside (his property) and another got hurt and lost. Both skiers getting hurt having leaving Squaws’ property found no recourse from them. They, I believe did in sueing Mr. Caldwell. Those two suits in combination with Sqauw, at the time, doing a major lift overhaul caused that area to get closed in the winter and is now a private ski area. The summer hikers still have access up the couple of hiking trails.

    Lou thanks again for the insight, you helped bring to the surface some much needed words from Mr. Chapman. As a result I hope the ski community can learn from this and begin making steps to keep this from happening elsewhere. If you get a chance to to check out Mountain Riders Alliance Lou do so. My wife and I are neck deep in this group of like minded skiers/riders if you share the interest e-mail me I’ll tell you more. Merry Christmakwanzaka to you and the family-Dudeman

  99. Mickie December 16th, 2010 4:34 pm

    Chapman is a cry baby. Boo Hoo.

    I find it funny that Chapman keeps saying that news outlets – the Daily Planet and the Watch – won’t report his side of the story. Has he actually DONE anything other than purchase the claims (besides make threats?).
    Chapman, it seems, made his case in one story published in the Telluride Watch on Oct. 26 titled in a story titled “Telski seeks public comment on Delta Bowl expansion”–New-Lift?

    Chapman was quoted in the story:

    “The landowners have every right to sit here and complain about this,” Chapman said in an interview on Tuesday. “The town says it’s not liable. The county says it’s not liable. It’s a Forest Service problem. You think anyone can sue the Forest Service? No. So who do you think get sued here? First it will be the landowner anywhere near the accidental death site. So will Telski. They are kidding themselves if they don’t believe they will be held liable.”
    Is this not Chapman’s side of the story?
    “It’s always a bad idea to push private landowners aside as if they do not exist,” to quote Chapman from the story again.
    Great Blog Lou but I am afraid we are all falling into Chapman’s trap of getting the public in an uproar over what the man MIGHT do. We all know he is there and what he now owns and what his past is. His side of the story has been told.
    I would imagine if Chapman actually did file a suit against the Forest Service or Telski, you would read all about it in the local newspapers. For now, it is all a bunch of hot air.

  100. Shoveler December 16th, 2010 4:41 pm

    Lou, did you notice that you published Chapman, then suddenly those Telluride rags stick his stuff on the web the next day or so? I wonder what they were really planning on doing with it before you scooped them. I’m no fan of Chapman, but his say is definitely the other side and worth hearing. Know they enemy and all that.

  101. Lou December 16th, 2010 4:56 pm

    Mickie, keep your eyes on the newspapers. From what hear, that hot air is about to achieve some density.

  102. Mickie December 16th, 2010 5:00 pm


    Why hold back. Tell us all what you are hearing.

  103. Lou December 16th, 2010 5:15 pm

    Mickie, I’m respecting people’s privacy, and I’m also not tracking every last detail of this, more the general trends. Newspapers pay guys to do that day-to-day news hounding, I hope they’re on it!

  104. Thomas Chapman December 16th, 2010 4:56 pm

    This is the 2nd post I have made to a blog site in my lifetime. It looks like my first was a bit lengthy. I apologize for that, so I’m going to divide this post into two segments.
    In regard to the “gap” issue between our Modena/Little Bessie parcels, and in response to our request that the County Surveyor issue an opinion that the Larson survey is either correct or incorrect, County Surveyor Dave Foley emails us back saying that: ‘in his capacity as County Surveyor, he “respectfully declines” our request to clear up the matter with the local Telluride newspapers, saying that while he will continue to diligently pursue the adoption of a Policy for requests to revise GIS mapping — that would allow him to follow the process in that Policy, to allow him to proceed with the database issue. He then told us “when and if” he decides to proceed with changing the database “in accordance with my Policy”, it would be appropriate to then advise the media.’

    WHAT A BUNCH OF HOGWASH! It’s too bad that landowners and the skiing public have to put up with this politically correct goobly-goop.His whole response sounds like a man trying to hide information from the public for political reasons. I notice that as of this morning, Daily Planet editor Boudein has still refused to publish surveyor Larson’s Dec. 13, 2010 statement of correction written to his newspaper. As you know, in a posting, editor Boudein is on record as saying he will publish any evidence that shows the Modena~Bessie “gap” to be erroneous.

    Foley’s using the word “if” sounds to me like is still willing to keep hiding the facts from the people. He’s hiding behind what he perceives to be the limitations of his office. But he fails in the primary mission of his office – -to promote true and correct survey information so that the public would have true and correct information on which to base decisions.

    The result of Foley’s foot-dragging is a misinformed San Miguel GIS department, a misinformed skiing public, and a County Assessor unwilling to correct the GIS database. This allows editor Boudein to say in his newspaper on Dec. 13, 2010, over ONE YEAR after the Larson resurvey was completed: “A search through physical records at the county assessor’s office shows the same thing. So anyone skiing Deep and Dangerous or hiking from Ophir to Telluride, for example, could legally exit through the area called the Graveyard, according to the county maps. GHDC contends, though, that the claims meet, and the legal question of whether the claims actually touch each other is still interesting. Mining claims were often thrown together haphazardly as miners scrambled to get at precious metals. In Bear Creek, the county’s records show a tangle of claims overlapping each other. Either way, there is a palpable amount of anger directed toward Chapman… ” Telluride Daily Planet, Dec. 13, 2010.

    Is that anger intensified by Foley’s actions? Is Foley propagating misinformation? The review board of the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado and the Colorado Association of County Surveyors should look into Foley’s actions to see if he has handled this appropriately. Will his behind the scenes telephone calls and e-mail correspondence with the San Miguel County GIS department, San Miguel County Assessor, San Miguel County Attorney, county commissioners, the newspapers, etc. show up in our FOIA document request of the San Miguel County Commissioners and related county officials (regarding HCA zoning)? I don’t know. But the bottom line is that the public is eventually going to find out that the “so-called gap” never existed, that credible corroborating evidence was presented six months ago to the Telluride newspapers and the County Surveyor showing no gap. The County Surveyor and the local newspapers do a disservice to the skiing public to suggest that a gap exists — as it needlessly exacerbates already difficult issues.
    Thomas Chapman

  105. Thomas Chapman December 16th, 2010 5:01 pm

    San Miguel County Surveyor Foley, in his elected capacity, has an obligation to confirm or refute, in a reasonable period of time, whether or not a survey presented to him by a Colorado registered surveyor for recording in the San Miguel County meets the professional platting requirements of the Professional Land Surveyors of Colorado and the respective county requirements. The Larson resurvey does so. If it doesn’t, Foley is long past letting people know that. In my opinion, Foley knows the Larson re-survey is correct. (It’s my understanding Foley has been involved himself in setting the “Delta” control monument.) He knows that Larson’s resurvey of Little Bessie MS 5521 and Modena MS 13375 are exact duplicates of the original mineral surveys done by surveyor Harvey G. Gilkesson and his assistant Peter Johnson on Sept. 9, 1899, in the case of the Modena, and by surveyor T.S. Mathis, who on September 10, 1888, surveyed the Little Bessie MS 5521. Any fair examination of these original surveys will show these men to be highly principled and skilled in their work. Their work is the opposite of “haphazard”. Modern GPS surveying equipment often shows these men to be uncannily accurate when all they had were transits and chains. Foley should not only apologize to current surveyor Larson for this mess, he should also apologize, posthumously, to his skilled predecessors, and then resign.
    Thomas Chapman

  106. skibum December 18th, 2010 9:54 am

    The article does nothing to help the trespassers of telluride, but does it embellish the thumb sucking pretentious shallow pocket attitude that most who live there possess. When telluride couldn’t pay for the valley floor they went on a nationwide begging campaign and were only saved in the 11th hour by a guy who fell off a bike. In a replay of that event, they are once again proving that they never accepted the simple truth of; they can’t put their money where their mouth is. For all the intellecto-babble spewed forth here the truth is; they don’t have the money. so instead of agreeing to collect an access fund – gee climbers managed to do it… or go on a nationwide begging campaign again!- they act out like children who have had a christmas toy taken away. What ever.
    The reality of bear creek is that it isn’t all that great to ski. just ask brian oneill or scott kennet.

  107. ccc December 22nd, 2010 9:25 pm

    trespassing is against the law, especially west of the missouri.

    liabilty is huge issue which is why so many folks post their ground. not to let you know that you can’t go there, that is a given without explicit permission, but to protect themselves from you when you do.

    some states have enacted legislation to prevent liability suits by injured hunters while present on land WITH permission, perhaps colorado can do the same for skiers. if that is the real issue.

    at any rate it is their gound.

  108. Seth Green December 24th, 2010 1:17 am

    “San Miguel County Surveyor Foley, in his elected capacity…”

    Now we’re witnessing some vitriol from Chapman, at one of few people empowered to confirm or refute his claim(s) (and I mean lower-case claims as well as Upper-case Claims).

    Surveying in the high mountains of CO takes time. I know this because I worked in the field for Dave Foley, when he was the principal of his surveying firm before being elected as County Surveyor (mid 90s).

    As Chapman has given due shrift to the accuracy and legality of the Survey process, given his thorough faith in his (paid) surveyor’s assessment, I would imagine that he would also respect the County’s legal duty in confirming as such.

    No need to vilify the foil.

  109. Leo McCormick December 26th, 2010 5:42 pm

    Now, according to all available information, the highest asking price in question was $300,000 during a period of the seven years the properties were openly for sale. 300 backcountry Telluride skiers had 7 years to set aside $1,000 each (from their Sheridan Bar Budget ?) for the purpose of buying the mining claims in question. They would have protected the entire area for skiing AND had a good investment for future development!!! When someone, such as Mr. Chapman, Mr. Curry and others, have the forsight and skill to succed in such endeavors, these same people who could have done the same thing, “on a ski boot string,” start their whining and whining and whining………………………………………………………………….AKA ‘”SkiCapitalist”

  110. Allan December 31st, 2010 2:09 pm

    The claim to fence off the land holding by Chapman and his cronies are so bogus. I mean come on like they could even maintain the idea of a fence is ridiculous, gee do you think an avalanche would take out that fence? lol

    This looks like another coup by Thomas Chapman to screw Telski and the USFS because they left him the opportunity to do so. The USFS or one of the Conservancy groups should buy all of upper Bear Creek back and work to have it designated a Wilderness or Primitive area with no motor traffic and no development.

    Oh and our liability laws and anyone who wants to cash in a a liability issue to shrug there responsibility suck big time. We need to get our heads out of our asses and look to duplicate what Europe has done as far as ski are boundaries and access.

  111. Lou January 1st, 2011 10:22 am

    Good comments you guys, keep ’em coming.

  112. Voice of reason January 25th, 2011 11:09 am

    Why not allow the public to access your property while you work things out with your neighbors? It is definitely possible to protect yourself from litigation regardless of what some people say and frankly no one has ever filed suit for accidents in Bear Creek.

    In fact, why not build a hut for the public to use in the summer and winter. As you know that is the highest and best use of your property. It is your property right to do so and can be very profitable as David Eckley and Eric Trommer can atest on Gold Hill. The blueprint is done. You could have many years of enjoyment there while making many happy too.

  113. Lou January 25th, 2011 11:17 am

    Voice, as one myself who has seen hundreds of huts in the central European model of private ownership, catering to human powered skiers and supporting a group of employees or a family, I think something like that could happen in the U.S. and I’ve been calling Chapman’s attention to this sort of thing. It would be difficult, and tend to end up like everything else associated with industrial tourism such as Telluride Ski Resort (expensive and limited in use), but it’s always worth trying.

    What is more, the money Gold Hill Development bought that land for was peanuts. I am simply amazed that a not-for-profit didn’t get their act together, buy that property and the other chunk, and work on building a hut. Really, I’m just amazed. I’m even more amazed that the resort didn’t buy it, but that could be a good thing in the long run, as they wouldn’t have done anything visionary with it.

    Shoot, all the white rastas and trustafarians (grin) in Telluride could just collect a nickle for every time someone calls Chapman a childish name, then buy the property with those funds and be done with it.

    Really, the whole thing is a laughable circus, and Chapman only shed light on it, he’s not to blame.

    Oh, and as for people accessing your private property, sure a person can let them. But really, just because the public wants to access some private property for whatever reason, what the land owner does about it is really their own darned business until they’re forced to relent. This involves everything from people crossing the corner of your lawn and wearing it out, all the way up to how ski resorts operate. What folks in Telluride need to internalize is that this is private land, period. No amount of crying and moaning about how popular it is, or how good the skiing is, or whatever, will change that fact. If it wasn’t Gold Hill Development owning it and saying they don’t want trespassers, it could very well be someone else and probably would be. The issue here is private land that messes up recreation, and how the local government and public deals with that in a legal and effective manner. The issue is not the land owner and whatever legal behavior they choose to do. Gad, do I really need to be saying this!?

  114. Lou January 25th, 2011 11:33 am

    BTW, the photographer who graciously let me publish his photos to illustrate the Bear Creek posts has withdrawn permission. Bummer, but that’s the way it goes. I’m hoping Chapman and associates will do some of their own photography, but their Google Earth file is darned good so perhaps that’s all one really needs…

  115. voice of reason January 26th, 2011 4:49 pm

    So Lou if private land owners across the country become inspired by Chapman and decide no one can cross their property, how will that effect your ski touring since many basins in Colorado have private holdings due to the mining era? This is the first land owner that has ever cared in Bear Creek and, as you very well know, it is only for monetary gain. Sure someone could have bought the claim but there are many more in BC and other basins people ski tour in. $180,000 is a lot of money. Are you or your Aspen friends going to buy claims where private landowners block your access to your favorite zones?
    I find your comments offensive on how you speak of Telluriders and know that if a private landowner took away access to your favorite zone, you would speak out loudly. I am in agreement with you on property rights and agree with Tom. But since he does not live there or even use it at this time, what trouble does it cause him to let people use it until he does? It does not bother any other owner there, except one that Tom convinced of a pay day. If he is worried about liability, there are ways to overcome it.
    Frankly, I am surprised at your opinions and that you even give Tom a soapbox to speak out on. You know exactly what he is truly up to, or i at least hope you have the wisdom to see through this charade. Weren’t you around for the West Elks incident? Do you honestly believe this is about property rights not the use of property rights for monetary gain? I used to respect this site greatly but now sign off never to return because you have let me down with your strange contradictory position. Life is about doing the right thing Lou and Tom.

  116. Lou January 26th, 2011 5:17 pm

    Voice, I get in situations all the time where private land blocks access I’d like to have. Please don’t try to read my mind or guess what I do day-to-day. When that happens, while I most surly have at times been disappointed I don’t call the owners names or sit around and whine about them. In most cases, I simply figure out a work-around, or just go elsewhere as private land is simply, private land — and there is plenty of public land. More, non-profit groups around here have bought tons of private land and turned it to public ownership. It happens. Really. Believe it.

    As for Chapman inspiring other landowners to do whatever, go ahead and guess the future, but I doubt he’s making much if any difference. Most people who own land know what their rights are, and if they want to receive value from their land they’re very good at figuring out how they want to behave and how they want to deal with things like public access. They don’t need Chapman as a roll model.

    As for my strange contradictory position. let me first remove my tinfoil hat, then say that I’ve always understood that private property is the foundation of our civilization, and I have great respect for it. I also believe the public has certain group rights as well when it comes to any land, and the balancing public and private rights is a constant dance. In the case of property such as Gold Hill Development, purchase of a public easement would be the ideal, in my opinion. Or again, simply buying the whole thing. More, the public does have certain options that should be explored by a non-profit legal team. If those options pan out, then I’m all for it. There, now can I put my hat back on?

    As for what you read on the web, you’ve certainly got choices and I encourage you to go where you’re comfortable. No one website is for everyone, and I most certainly don’t intend to try to fit that mold. Thanks for visiting and enjoy those other websites!

  117. Voice of reason January 27th, 2011 11:36 am

    He is a master manipulator of the press who says a lot of things that are not true to deflect attention from his true self, a ruthless opportunist. Don’t be fooled by him. Study his past and you will see the truth. There are many better stories related to this topic such as future ramifications to many public lands or the FS’s improper handling of this closure. Don’t get sucked into his game and give him the soapbox he seeks for his blathering subterfuge. Many smart people have…

  118. Leo McCormick January 27th, 2011 6:14 pm

    To Monsieur “Voice of Reason.” For almost two decades Mr. Chapman stood silently by while his actions, words and interviews were mischaracterized a good deal…………Now, recently he has explained the facts and his motives, he openly says he partly doing it for profit. Compare the way he does things for profit to the individuals and institutions who and which have pushed us all into a World Wide Depression Lite……….Would you rather have Mr. Chapman’s kind of business ethics affecting our society or Wall Street and the Mortgage Gangs…………..? By the way, Voice of Reason, what do you do for your livelihood? Are you a professional libeler for some communist or “spread the wealth around,” FRONT organization? Regards, SkiCapitalist……………..

  119. Lou January 27th, 2011 6:25 pm

    Voice, are you saying myself or Telluride newpapers shouldn’t publish Chapman’s take? Censor him? I don’t understand what you’d rather we did.

    I published Chapman’s take, you are welcome to leave comments dissecting what we published. That seems pretty effective. You are also welcome to point out things from Chapman’s past that relate to the Bear Creek issue.

    All I ask is no name calling, and stick to facts.

  120. Santa Barbara Spectator June 22nd, 2011 4:14 pm

    My comments are directed to Mr. Chapman and the other land owners (didn’t call them ‘claims’:-) in Bear Creek. I don’t know if it will make a difference to them, but in all of the comments so far, nobody has really talked much about ‘why’ access to Bear Creek is so important to them personally. So, I’ll give it a try – and hope to put a more personal ‘spin’ on the debate.

    My wife and I conceived our son ten years ago when we lived in Telluride for a year. We lived at the end of Columbia St., and I remember like it was yesterday looking up Bear Creek to watch the avalanches pour through the canyon.

    I have been ‘waiting’ all of these years to treat my boy to a very specific winter adventure – Ophir to Telluride (and down Bear Creek). I’m not sure why it is so important to me, but I think about it often – certainly every winter, and more so when I miss a winter’s trip to Telluride.

    As he gets closer and closer to being physically (and mentally) ready for this challenge, it was with great distress that I learned that this adventure is no longer possible.

    I expected the trip to teach my son many things: for one thing, I hoped to instill in him the spirit of the ‘freedom of the hills’ – a concept that’s hard to explain, but easy to experience. I also hoped that he would learn something about self-reliance, setting goals and then accomplishing same, and gain a confidence in his ability to navigate the world without fear (or prejudice).

    I feel certain that many parents of children in Telluride have gone ‘before me’ in this endeavor, and that for many others the Ophir-to-Telluride trek has been a kind of right-of-passage – from childhood to being an adult, from ‘liftie’ to back country adventurer, etc.

    The world is filled with opportunities to make money – but seemingly so few chances to ‘pay it forward’ to the future generations.

    Why, out of all of the ways you could make a profit from the sale or use of these lands, has it come to this?


  121. Lou June 22nd, 2011 4:28 pm

    SBS, thanks for the comment. I too have felt that way about dozens of private land parcels in Colorado I would have liked to use or cross, some that I even used as a child but are now posted and I could not use with my own child. The question is, how do we decide which of these parcels we should somehow require to forgo their private property rights, and which ones should we leave alone? Taking the broader view, and trying to be intellectually honest, one has to admit that the answers to that question are not easy, and way more important than looking at things from our personal needs (though that is a good point of departure). So, getting back specifically to Bear Creek, do you have any recommendations or ideas on how the situation could be resolved?

    Thanks for chiming in. Lou

  122. Lou June 22nd, 2011 4:42 pm

    Interestingly, it appears Kelley McMillan, writing for Outside Magazine, is still working on her story. She contact me last week and we had a lengthy conversation. I didn’t really care to be quoted in Outside, with the chance of being taken out of context, so our conversation was not for quotes but for back story. She seemed very interested and sincere about getting to the bottom of the private property vs public rights debate and issue. We’ll see what POV her article takes.

    Kelley seemed very interested in the land my wife and I are half owners of up near Marble, Colorado, where we have no trespassing signs on a small part of the property where we camp in the summer and park our camp trailer, and thus want some privacy and security. She seemed to be trying to put us in the same class as GHDC wanting to keep people off their land, but I assured her that other than the area we use for camping, on the rest of the property we could care less about how it’s used for recreation. The other owner, of course, might feel differently and we’d respect them as well as they have equal ownership and rights.

    Just thought I should mention this in terms of where this story might be headed in the future.

    Shew, it never ends!

  123. brian h June 22nd, 2011 4:49 pm

    I promise not to ever mistake you for GHDC.

  124. Santa Barbara Spectator June 22nd, 2011 5:26 pm

    To be honest, Lou, I don’t have a suggestion of how to resolve the property rights vs. public use issue.

    In Santa Barbara we have several large ranches north of town (along the coast) that contain some of the best surf spots in the area. Some of the owners have built ‘ladders’ over the barbed wire fencing in their land – in strategic and unpublicized locations – so that their fences aren’t torn down on a routine basis by surfers/trespassers. I’m sure if the number and frequency of ‘visits’ became a problem – damage to property or interference with ranch operations – the ladders would come down.

    Other owners choose to put up higher fences, cut brush back from historical ‘crossing’ locations so that a ranch hand can watch out for trespassers.

    Still other owners (Hollister Ranch) put in a guard shack manned 24 hours a day, restricting access to Point Conception and approx. 33,000 acres of unspoiled coastal land.

    After doing a little more reading about Mr. Chapman (and watching a hilarious video about the house for sale in Gunnison National Park), and notwithstanding the fundamental collision of interests represented by the events surrounding Mr. Chapman’s expression of his private property rights, I’m not convinced that we now, as the original blog post suggests, have “both sides” of the story. I feel pretty certain that the other shoe hasn’t dropped yet.

    Of course, when my son is old enough (several years yet before I think his Mom will let him summit 13,000 ft. – and hopefully I’m not too old, I hope:), I guess I could always send the GHDC a polite request for permission for my son and I to pass through.

    I hope I’m not being pessimistic, but by the time we get permission from Mom there will probably be a lift or lifts in Bear Creek (4 years?), and the ‘cool’ factor of starting out in one town, Ophir (on skis) and ending up in Bear Creek and eventually Telluride, won’t be an option – without a lift ticket anyway…

    From afar, this looks likely to be the probable outcome in a few years – TSGC will have a few new LLC partners, and a few new lifts.


  125. Santa Barbara Spectator June 22nd, 2011 5:45 pm

    One last thought.

    We have all had “good neighbors” and “bad neighbors.” The woman that lives next door to me goes crazy when I trim the trees (that grow on her side of the fence) along my driveway – if I don’t, I can’t get in or out of the driveway.

    On the other hand, I have had neighbors (a different house) who helped save my home during a fire – we have those every couple of years here.

    I would ask GHDC if he plans to be a good neighbor, or not. Clearly, giving permission for the runners to use the trail was a good start; I would now ask if there isn’t some similar common ground to be found for winter use.

    If it’s money and nothing else that you seek, I’m pretty sure that’s what you will find.

  126. Leo McCormick June 22nd, 2011 5:48 pm

    SBS (anonymous): You really need about 4 violins, 2 cellos, a bass viola playing in the background for this. Supply kleenex for all the audience. I know, take your son to the Swiss Alps……The government owns the Alps and you and your son can ski ANYWHERE…………………………..Leo M. McCormick

  127. brian h June 22nd, 2011 6:45 pm

    Mr McCormick-I think you didn’t read anything SBS wrote You just jerked your knee.. Are you implying that because this is AMERICA the issue of public wildland access is trivial? is un-patriotic? What? Sincerely, R. Brian Hessling

  128. Lou June 22nd, 2011 10:18 pm

    I didn’t take what Leo wrote as an attack, seemed like he was just making a strong point about the fact that while we can’t use certain private land, we still have a virtually infinite number of possibilities… and of course we also still have the right and sometimes obligation to bemoan that loss of access near where we live, since traveling gets expensive!

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