(Editor’s note: See MarbleSki.org for more information about backcountry access and skiing near Marble, Colorado.)
Excellent news for western Colorado backcountry recreationalists: One of our few producing mines in Colorado appears to be planning on staying open, and thus will continue to maintain and snowplow their road access to Yule Quarry in the mountains west of Aspen — a favorite area for backcountry skiers (and the location of WildSnow field headquarters).
Aspen Times reports that the Italian company operating Yule Quarry, near Marble, Colorado is expending significant resources to open a new portal to the underground marble mine, and increasing year-around production that already keeps the quarry road open all winter.
Yule Quarry is more than 100 years old, but had been out of operation for decades before reopening in 1990. Since then, the access road has been plowed nearly every winter.
The mountains of Colorado provide vast areas where you can backcountry ski. But very few of those areas have road access for day-trip trailheads. Thus, news about any of our motorized access routes is important. Frequently, such news is depressing. Roads on public land are closed permanently, blocked by private land, or gated during springtime when they’re actually dry enough to drive — and access a safer springtime consolidated snowpack.
As a recreation advocate, I firmly believe that we have vast resources for alpine recreation, and that “crowding” is usually a false situation created by limited access that concentrates use instead of dispersing. In my view, we could use a few more roads that high in elevation, perhaps plowed now and then in the winter or at least available for snowmobile access.
Here in the western United States, one of two things (or a combination) probably created your favorite high mountain access road: mineral extraction (oil, mining, etc.) and logging. Presently, nearly any new mineral or logging road that’s created is slated at some point to be removed and reclaimed. One has to wonder, could the USFS, BLM and other land management entities work with extractive industry to make a few more roads we could all use for fun, and not erase?
Blasphemy? What do you guys think?
WildSnow.com publisher emeritus and founder Lou (Louis Dawson) has a 50+ years career in climbing, backcountry skiing and ski mountaineering. He was the first person in history to ski down all 54 Colorado 14,000-foot peaks, has authored numerous books about about backcountry skiing, and has skied from the summit of Denali in Alaska, North America’s highest mountain.