Thanks to our friends at NASJA Midwest for bringing this story to Ski, Esq.'s attention.
Perhaps its the "Mount Bohemia Effect," but another Michigan resort has decided to embrace a more rugged ski experience. Northern Michigan's tiny Caberfae Peaks (vertical: 485') will open 25+ acres of gladed terrain for 2013-2014. Although the resort is terming the new area "backcountry terrain" it appears to be within the resort's boundary and Caberfae Peaks has done work to clear entrances and exits to the new terrain.
After years of clipping the tickets of those who dared to stray from the marked runs, resorts across the country have done an abrubt about-face on the idea of tree-skiing. From coast to coast, in-bounds "backcountry" terrain is appearing on trail maps with increasing regularity.
The benefit to resorts is obvious. This type of gladed terrain is an inexpensive way for resorts to add acreage. Sugarloaf (ME) used a sidecountry expansion onto Burnt Mountain and Brackett Basin to capture the title of largest resort in the East. Moreover, the terrain added appeals to an expert skier set - a group which has been particularly difficult for midwest ski resorts to retain. Keeping a hardcore skier interested for a full day on less than 500' is a challenge, but this type of terrain has the potential to do just that.
On the flip side, as resorts in less traditional extreme skiing states begin opening "in-bounds backcountry" terrain, the legal consequences remain largely unknown. While ski resorts will surely look to rely on the lift ticket waiver/release and applicable ski statute protections afforded by state law, an injury in this type of terrain might raise a case of first impression in some jursidictions, namely: are "in-bounds backcountry" cliffs, trees, and rocks part of the "inherent risks" of the sport that a skier assumes?
If yes, then the resort has little to fear. If no, the result could range from the almost immediate closure of all of this type of terrain to additional signage requirements. Only time will tell.
More on the story from MI Ski Report: