Liability worries close Carbondale-area sledding hill |

Liability worries close Carbondale-area sledding hill

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times

CARBONDALE – The snow beckons at the sledding hill near the Spring Gulch cross-country ski area outside of Carbondale, but the once-popular spot is off-limits.

A sign reading “No Trespassing, No Sledding” has been posted at the bottom of the hill. It actually went up in the middle of last winter, according to area rancher Bill Fales, a member of the North Thompson Cattlemen’s Association, which controls the property.

“As landowners, [we] just didn’t want the liability,” he said.

Two winters ago, a kid broke his arm sledding there, Fales said. The youngster’s mom called the cattlemen and asked, “Where should I send the bill?” he said.

The group did not pay the youngster’s medical bills, but a year later they did decide to halt the practice of using the private property as a sledding hill. Fales said he put up the sign.

“We’ve stopped people for years, but you know, it’s a full-time job,” he said. “It’s aggravating. No one ever asked permission.”

The land is under a conservation easement that doesn’t spell out sledding as a use. Though the practice doesn’t likely threaten the property’s conservation values, it has been problematic for the landowners, Fales said.

“The liability in today’s litigious age – it’s ridiculous,” he said.

And, adding to the sledding risk is a vertical steel post – an old railroad rail – anchored along the run that holds up a “Road Closed” sign – an effort to deter motorists who were driving up onto the ridge. Sledders, apparently, have put old tires around the metal post for protection.

The sledders have also caused problems for the cross-country area, located across the roadway, by taking up parking in the lot that’s meant for Spring Gulch. On busy weekends, vehicles spill out onto the road.

Most of the cross-county area, including the sledding hill, is part of a 4,800-acre conservation easement.

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