Silverton Mountain hit with trespassing suit
SILVERTON – Silverton Mountain, the steep and deep experts-only ski area in San Juan County that is capturing the imagination of enthusiasts, faces a legal battle after an Aspen man filed a trespassing suit against the area’s owner.Jim Jackson owns several mining claims totaling close to 155 acres within the ski area’s boundaries. Last Monday he filed a 29-page suit in state court in San Juan County.Jackson, who lives in Aspen, says he has evidence that the area’s owner, Aaron Brill of Core Mountain Enterprises, and his clients have trespassed on his land regularly since the area began operating in 2000. Avalanche control work has also been conducted on his land, he says.Brill maintains that trespassing has never occurred on Jackson’s property. Jackson possesses several photographs of ski tracks, bomb craters from avalanche control work, and avalanche debris on his property, according to a February letter from Jackson’s attorney, Charles B. White, to the San Juan County commissioners.Jackson’s complaints of trespass have been largely disregarded in San Juan County. Last February, the local district attorney, Sarah Law, declined to prosecute Brill, citing a lack of evidence.”There was not proof beyond a reasonable doubt for anything,” Law said last month. “(The Sheriff’s Office) has received a lot of complaints from Jim Jackson about people skiing on his property, but they’ve never caught anybody.”(Jackson’s) asking us to assume that just the ski area is responsible, and we can’t just prosecute a corporation. When you have a criminal offense you have to have someone who committed the criminal offense.”Until last Monday, Jackson and Brill had been in negotiations, and Jackson stated that he wished there was another way of resolving the issue. “It is regrettable that it has come to legal action, but as the largest private landowner in this immediate area, we just don’t feel like we can sit back passively as our property rights are continually violated by the ski area,” Jackson stated in a news release last week. “Unfortunately, for years Core Mountain, the Bureau of Land Management and San Juan County have ignored our efforts to stop guided skiing and the use of explosives on our land. We have taken the same action that is available to any Colorado landowner whose property is being used without his consent.”Jackson began purchasing mining claims in the Silverton area in the mid-1980s, and he had plans to erect a tram from the town to the summit of what is now Silverton Mountain Ski Area.In 1999, while trying to raise funds for the project, Brill entered the picture with his own development ideas – to create the country’s first backcountry-centric, experts-only ski area. After purchasing several mining claims and attaining a temporary permit from the BLM, Brill erected a used lift up the slopes of Silverton Mountain and with it dashed Jackson’s dreams.In a Dec. 10 story in the Denver Post, Brill referred to Jackson’s suit as “economic sour grapes.”But according to Jackson’s news release, he’s simply seeking justice.”Our intention is not to shut down Mr. Brill’s business venture,” Jackson stated. “Mr. Brill is certainly free to run his ski area on his own land and on land that he has leased from others, but he’s not free to run it on our land. It’s not fair that he continues to expose us to liability for injuries to users of the area, particularly in steep avalanche terrain.”We are still interested in working out an agreement that would compensate us for the use of our land and protect us against lawsuits by other parties.”Brill could not be reached for comment, and Jackson would not comment.Steve Benson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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