- Outside Magazine Tom Chapman
"The Backcountry Buzzard" - Illustration by Roberto Parada from

Looks like our little Bear Creek controversy and Telluride’s favorite douche Tom Chapman are about to get some national attention.

Outside Magazine just published an article titled “Backcountry Monopoly” about the controversial figure in their January 2012 issue by Colorado-based writer Kelley McMillan. In her piece, the author goes into great depth about Chapman himself, his infamous “Eco-Extortionist” history, and of course the on-going Bear Creek debacle.

This article shine’s even more light into Chapman’s history of douchebag-ery and what he is really all about. Telluride local’s hate for this man will no-doubt be taken to a whole new level after reading this article, as well as the national public.



The following select quotes are taken from the article which can be and should be read in it’s entirety @

“ONE DAY LAST APRIL, I followed a 25-year Telluride local as he slid up to a boundary rope at the top of the resort’s Revelation Bowl, glanced over his shoulder to see if anybody was watching, and ducked out of bounds. We traversed the rim of the ­famous Bear Creek drainage, a shimmering, 3,000-plus-acre playground of 45-degree couloirs and untracked powder ringed by the high, jagged peaks of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. A dozen other skiers were visible up the valley.

My guide—who asked not to be named, for fear of losing his job and his ski pass—picked a line, and we plunged downward, carving into creamy spring snow. Five months ­earlier, this terrain wouldn’t have been off-limits, but in December 2010 the U.S. Forest Service—leaseholder of Telluride’s more than 2,000 acres—had forced the resort to close the gates into Bear Creek, shutting down some of the best lift-accessed backcountry skiing in North America. At issue is a 30-acre bacon strip of land that separates Bear Creek from the town of Telluride, 2,850 feet below.

The controversial real estate speculator Tom Chapman had bought the parcel and several others for $246,000 from a ­doctor named George Greenberg the previous spring; then he complained to the Forest Service that skiers were trespassing as they ­exited the drainage on their way back to town. Chapman says that he and his business partner, a hippie turned chef named Ron Curry, plan to erect a gold mine on the site or perhaps build a ­European-style backcountry chalet. In January 2011, Chapman also filed a lawsuit against the resort’s parent company, Telluride Ski and Golf (TSG), contending that he has the right to keep an old road to his claim open year-round—a road better known to ­Telluride skiers as See Forever, an intermediate run and one of the hill’s main thoroughfares.”

“Chapman, who’s 61 and has lived most of his life in and around Paonia, Colorado—two hours northeast of Telluride—isn’t your typical small-town realtor. Over the past two decades, he and his investors have bought more than two dozen wilderness properties and figured out ways to boost their values before reselling them. Last year, The Wall Street Journal called him “the Buzzard of the Backcountry” for the way he serially sniffs out, snaps up, and threatens to develop Colorado’s pristine inholdings—chunks of private property surrounded by protected federal land—­unless the government, conservationists, or local communities pay him what he calls a fair market rate and they call a ransom.

“Now, he has cut off skiers from backcountry access they’d been enjoying since before the resort opened in 1972. Not surprisingly, the townies are upset: stickers reading TOM CHAPMAN IS A DOUCHE BAG have cropped up all over Telluride. In public, Chapman ­denies that he’s looking for a buyout, and TSG’s management, aware of his tactics, hasn’t made any offers.

“I’m not going to come crawling on my hands and knees to this guy,” Dave Riley, the company’s CEO, said last April. “Maybe he just needs to sit up there and think about it for a while.” “

“BACK IN TELLURIDE, county and town officials are watching to see what happens with Chapman’s lawsuit against Telluride Ski and Golf. The case hinges on mining laws and historic use of Gold Hill Road up See Forever trail. If Chapman wins and begins plowing his road, TSG may be forced to buy him out. As for the standoff in Bear Creek, county commissioner Joan May thinks there’s little chance Chapman will be able to keep skiers and ­hikers from crossing his claims. “Let’s just say there’s a big precedent for historic trails remaining public,” she says.

Keep Reading at


Additional Unofficial posts about the topic:

Upper Bear Creek Gates Closed Indefinitely – 12/11/10

USFS to Re-Establish Access Into Upper Bear Creek with New Palmyra Gate – 3/16/11

Thomas Chapman Means Serious Business – 7/23/11

$50 Caption Contest – Thomas Chapman Means Serious Business – 7/25/11

Funny Reader Submitted Tom Chapman Pic – 7/26/11

BREAKING NEWS: Chapman Getting Weirder Than Ever Up In Bear Creek. (Warning: Man Ass) – 8/22/11


Unofficial Networks Newsletter

Get the latest snow and mountain lifestyle news and entertainment delivered to your inbox.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

9 replies on “Tom “What a Douchebag” Chapman and the Bear Creek controversy gets national attention | Telluride, CO | Outside Magazine article”