The name of Tom Chapman is one with an irksome reputation in Colorado's mountain communities, especially in Telluride, where stickers reading "Tom Chapman is a Douchebag" can be spotted around town. The developer from tiny Paonia, Colorado has had a long history of buying abandoned mining claims and other remote properties surrounded by pristine wilderness and threatening to develop them for private homes unless the Forest Service, conservation groups, or locals pay him what he considers fair market value, - what those on the other end of the buy have occasionally relabeled a "ransom." But ever since Chapman bought a 100-odd acre splattering of old mining claims on the backside of Telluride ski resort in 2010 that separates the popular and downright terrifying backcountry ski zone of Bear Creek from the town of Telluride, he's prompted a fierce debate about public access, private property, and who gets to call who an asshole.
Bear Creek is infamous as one of the best and most intense resort-accessed backcountry zones in all of North America, with characteristically unstable San Juan snowpack layered on areas like Deep & Dangerous, Graveyard, and the yet-more-terrifyingly-named-for-New-Age-cohabiting-couples-run, Wedding Chutes. When Chapman bought the "sliver of bacon" separating the backcountry runs from town, he protested against the 200 or so people trespassing across his private property each day loud enough for the Forest Service to temporarily close three of the gates off of the top of Telluride, successfully winning him zero friends among local skiers.
Chapman's most recent plans, announced last Thursday, are for a 1,300 acre private ski area, the hastily-named Bear Creek at Telluride Ski Resort. No lifts or have grooming are in the plans, but rather a warming hut, heli and cat skiing, and avalanche control, the last three for which Chapman is currently seeking Forest Service permits. He also made sure to irk the locals by offering the possibility of foregoing the warming hut and building a single-family home instead.
Some local skiers and riders see it as a thinly-veiled attempt to simply charge them for passing through his property, while others praise Chapman's press release for keeping public access in the equation. For now, they can drop in for free as long as they sign a waiver. The Telluride Mountain Club says a prescriptive easement is already established through the property through a federally-recognized Wasatch Trail, and that permission isn't necessary.
· Bear Creek at Telluride Resort
· Tom Chapman's plan for ski area next to Telluride stirs locals [Denver Post]
· Telluride Colorado — GHD Opens Private Land to Skiing — Proposes Resort [Wild Snow]
· Backcountry Monopoly [Outside Magazine]
· Thomas Chapman - Bear Creek Telluride - His Story [Wild Snow]