House Votes to Legalize Olympians’ Climbing Trail in Colorado

Olympic hopefuls, Air Force Academy cadets and high school athletes have been testing their endurance on an abandoned cable-car route near the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado. When they do, every step they take is against the law.

That could change.

The House agreed by voice vote to transfer the land title and make it legal to ascend the one-mile, 2,000-vertical-foot Manitou Incline trail, about 10 miles from the U.S. Olympic training center in Colorado Springs.

The land is owned by the company that used to run the cable cars.

The legislation would give the right-of-way to the U.S. Forest Service so that the public could keep using it without, technically speaking, trespassing. A new federal law is needed to do that because an 1875 law gave the access rights to the Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway Company.

Sponsor Doug Lamborn, a Colorado Republican, said the legislation would remove a “centuries-old legal cloud” over the trail and let the Forest Service manage it professionally.

The cable cars stopped running after a landslide in 1990.

An estimated 350,000 to 500,000 people ignore the posted signs to complete the hike each year, according to a site development and management plan prepared for the city of Colorado Springs.

The ownership transfer is intended to settle concerns about safety and liability because of the site’s popularity.

“It’s the one workout where people truly have to face something that is unbeatable,” Apolo Anton Ohno, a short-track speedskater who has twice won an Olympic gold medal, told the New York Times in 2008. “It is you against yourself.”

The bill is H.R. 4073.

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