Telluride’s Via Ferrata to become the first route of its kind to integrate into the U.S. Forest Service

Updated: Sep. 17, 2023 at 6:00 PM MDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TELLURIDE, Colo. (KKCO) - Telluride has many different attractions, from skiing, biking, and hiking. Another route system takes people along a mountainside: the Via Ferrata, and it is looking to be the first route to integrate into the US Forest Service.

Around 2017-2018, Norwood District Ranger Matt Zumstein came up with the idea to integrate the trail. Since then, nonprofit organization Telluride Mountain Club has been working with the Forest Service and local stakeholders to integrate the Via Ferrata to maintain and preserve the route.

Telluride Mountain Club then took the role of engineering the route. For this to be considered fully integrated, the Forest Service has a specific standard for Via Ferrata based on the International Standard known as the ASTM F24.

In June, the Forest Service issued a memo stating that if there were certain upgrades to the route, it would adopt the Via Ferrata. “Right now, what’s happening is the local stakeholders, including the Telluride Mountain Club, are looking at issuing a request for proposal to have an engineer re-engineer the route to meet this different set of standards,” said Todd Rutledge, Director and Co-owner of Mountain Trip. The reason for adopting Telluride’s Via Ferrata is the route’s popularity.

Rutledge said the project will be pricey. Initially, the Forest Service noted that the entire Via Ferrata route needed redoing, which would have cost $60,000 to $250,000. However, reassessments brought the cost down to around $20,000. Mountain Trip is increasing its donations to the Via Ferrata Sustainability Fund from $5 to $10 to cover the cost.

“I expect that by the end of next year, we should have engineering and a new design in place. And then there’ll be a pretty expansive fundraising effort to try to raise money to complete the installation of whatever upgrades the engineering calls for,” said Rutledge. He anticipates the entire integration to occur between 2025 and 2026.

Rutledge states that Telluride Mountain Club is also considering an additional project besides Via Ferrata. The project is known as the Sweeping Trails Program. The program proposal has been going through the National Environmental Policy Act process with the U.S. Forest Service for years. However, the Forest Service is paying more attention to adopting the Via Ferrata at this time than it is to the Sweeping Trails program. For the Telluride Mountain Club, it aligns differently from their submission.

If you are looking to book a tour with Mountain Trip to do the Via Ferrata with professionals, you can visit them on their website.