Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Forest Service releases environmental analysis of Breckenridge Ski Resort summer expansion


Nearly a year after first asking for public input, the White River National Forest released the draft environmental impact statement Friday, Jan. 16, for Breckenridge Ski Resort’s proposed expansion of recreation activities.
Officials now are seeking more comments on the analysis of the proposal, which aims to boost year-round recreational opportunities at the resort with zip lines, canopy tours, ropes challenge courses, new mountain biking and hiking trails, and an observation tower.
The 321-page analysis describes the proposed activities in detail as well as their potential effects on wildlife, alpine ecosystems and human resources.
As required by the National Environmental Policy Act, the document first analyzes a “no action” alternative, or what would happen if none of the proposed designs or activities was approved or completed.
Then the document analyzes the impacts of approving and implementing everything in the ski resort’s proposal. Finally, the analysis presents an in-between option, with some of the most controversial features removed based on public input and concerns raised by Forest Service and other agency professionals.
One of the features removed in the third option was the Sawmill Zip Line.
The ski resort proposed that zip line would start at the top of the Peak 8 SuperConnect lift and cross the Sawmill Gulch between Peaks 8 and 9 twice with 1 mile of cables. It would connect near the top of the Volunteer ski run and end on the Four O’Clock run near the Freeway terrain park and pipe entrance.
The third option also removed the Ore Bucket Canopy Tour, proposed to cross gladed terrain on Peak 7 with nine ziplines. The analysis added a canopy tour on Peak 7 to replace the one removed. The Claimjumper Canopy Tour would be 0.85 miles long and include eight zip lines south, or skiers’ right, of the Independence chair.
Officials also removed the highest, northernmost part of the 14 new miles of mountain biking trails proposed on Peak 7.
The ski resort proposed 1.5 miles of new hiking trails, each 4 feet wide, that would enter the bottom of the bowls on Peaks 7 and 8 as well as one that would access the lake at the bottom of the Lake Chutes above 6 Chair.
That last hiking trail was removed in the alternative proposed by the Forest Service as well as summer guest use of the 6 Chair and Imperial lifts.
The 30-foot-tall observation tower proposed for the bottom of Horseshoe Bowl on Peak 8 was moved in the alternative option to right next to the bomb cache about 500 feet north of the top of the Colorado SuperChair.
Forest Service officials said the project as a whole aims to offer a wide spectrum of natural resource-based activities and experiences for an increasingly diverse recreating public interested in visiting the resort.
“The ski areas on the White River National Forest are important gateways to public lands. We offer world-class recreational opportunities to millions of guests each year at these resorts. These new projects will allow the forest to better reach those visitors who may not be familiar with national forests or outdoor recreation and provide activities that cater to a wider range of forest users,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor, in a written statement.
More public input during the 45-day comment period will help guide the decision-making process, Fitzwilliams wrote. He is charged with evaluating the project’s recreational benefits against its resource impacts and will make the final decision on the project.
A public open house on the proposal will be held at Mountain Thunder Lodge (50 Mountain Thunder Drive, Breckenridge, CO 80424) on Feb. 24, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Representatives from the Forest Service and the resort will answer questions and provide more information on this project.
The Forest Service requests that comments on the proposal be submitted by March 2. Send comments to: Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, c/o Roger Poirier, Project Leader, 120 Midland Ave., Suite 140, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601. Comments can also be submitted electronically at
The Forest Service requests that people submitting comments include their names, addresses, email addresses and organization represented, if any, as well as the project’s title and specific facts, concerns, issues and supporting reasons for Fitzwilliams to consider.
Only those who submit timely and specific written public comments will be legally eligible to file an objection to the project decision.
The White River National Forest plans to issue a final environmental impact statement and project decision in late summer 2015.
For more information, contact Roger Poirier, project manager, at 970-945-3245 or visit the White River National Forest website at
Courtesy of the Summit Daily News.