Forest Service looking for public comment
By Aimee Eaton
Crested Butte Mountain Resort is working to expand its skiable terrain by 500 acres, put in three new chairlifts, and add 15 miles of biking and hiking trails to the mountain’s summer trail system. Work on the expansion could begin as early as spring 2019 and would likely kick off with trail building.
Before that happens, however, the public is being asked to review and comment on the proposal as part of the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
“After the Forest Service said no to a ski expansion on Snodgrass in 2010, we began looking at other opportunities to increase our terrain offerings,” said Crested Butte Mountain Resort vice president Erica Mueller. “The Teo 2 expansion expands our ski area boundary and would allow us to put in more intermediate and advanced terrain—something visitors have asked for.”
Mueller said CBMR made its first contact with the United States Forest Service concerning the acceptability of the expansion in 2013. Then in 2015 the USFS accepted a request for environmental review of the project. At that time a description of the planned expansion was made public and 77 comments were received, with the majority favorable.
“Only five to seven of the comments were negative,” said Mueller. “It was a small number of comments overall, and the negatives had mostly to do with elk hunting and migration.”
The public response led the way for CBMR and the USFS to move into the creation of a draft Environmental Impact Statement—a comprehensive study that looks at the impact of the proposed expansion on all aspects of the environment.
The draft EIS was completed earlier this month, and last week it was released to the public for comment and review. Comments on the document will be accepted until May 10, 2018.
In a letter accompanying the document, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest supervisor Scott Armentrout, wrote, “At this time, I am evaluating the recreational benefits of these projects against the identified resource impacts these projects may create. A project decision will be made after considering information contained within the analysis, public comments and staff recommendations.”
Details of the project include: 100 acres of new trails, including five new intermediate trails and four new advanced trails; 434 acres of new gladed terrain, including 10 new gladed trails; a new Ski Patrol outpost at the top of the existing North Face surface lift that will improve incident response time in the area and provide sundries for guests; an additional 32 acres of snowmaking coverage to take place on Shep’s Chute, Rachel’s, Black Eagle, Lower Gallowich and Lower Championship; and 15 new miles of biking and hiking trails within the Evolution Bike Park, including new downhill biking trails originating from the top of the Silver Queen Lift.
The three new chairlifts associated with the expansion will include a lift to be located near the Paradise Warming House and terminating close to the top of the North Face lift; a shorter lift from the bottom of the existing Teo 2 Bowl to the top of the North Face lift; and a lift designed to move skiers from the bottom of the expanded terrain (on the bench above the East River) to the top of the existing Wolf’s Lair. This lift will be approximately 6,000 feet long with approximately 1,625 feet of vertical rise, and is anticipated to be a high-speed detachable or fixed grip chairlift.
“We won’t be putting in all three in one year,” said Mueller. “We will probably put in Teo Park first [the lift that would be located at the bottom of Teo 2], then work on getting the others in as we get the terrain in shape and the funding needed.”
The terrain, Mueller said, will require some glading and clearing for cut runs, but it will “allow for a natural interaction with the mountain.”
“The gladed terrain design will encourage exploration of, and connection with, nature rather than funneling guests down a traditional, widely cut trail,” said CBMR planners.
The estimated cost of the projects is between $10 million and $20 million. No word yet on how that could impact ticket and pass prices.
To view the draft EIS, and to make public comments on the proposed expansion, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=46904 by May 10, 2018.