Process stays on track with Vail Resorts
By Mark Reaman
The U.S. Forest Service has given the preliminary nod for Crested Butte Mountain Resort to expand its ski terrain into the Teo-2 drainage.
Acting forest supervisor for the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forests Chad Stewart put out a letter to interested parties on February 11 indicating the GMUG released a Final Environmental Impact Statement and a draft Record of Decision on the request that would expand the ski area boundary by approximately 500 acres.
Stewart’s selected alternative provides Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) with the authorization to expand winter skiing into the drainage that sits above Brush Creek. The idea is to construct two new chairlifts to service the new ski pod, replace and realign the current North Face Lift to help with access, build new ski trails and gladed areas of terrain and put a new ski patrol shack in the vicinity.
“My Selected Alternative will trigger a significant, Forest-wide Forest Plan amendment,” Stewart’s February 11 letter stated. “Although the decision will cause the Forest Plan to be amended, I believe the overall goals and objectives of the Proposed Action are consistent with the Forest Plan… My Selected Alternative provides CBMR with the authorization to implement activities analyzed in detail in the Final EIS.”
Members of the public who have commented on the proposal during the scoping or the draft EIS public review and comment period can comment on the final EIS and draft Record of Decision. They will have until April 1.
“The Notice of Availability was published in the Federal Register and Grand Junction Sentinel on February 15, which began the 45-day objection period. It concludes on April 1,” explained Gunnison National Forest ranger Matt McCombs. “Objections received during that period from folks who commented during the scoping and draft EIS comment periods, formally known as those with standing, will be considered and addressed by the Objection Review Officer, in this case deputy regional forester Tamara Whittington, who resides at our regional office in Lakewood.”
McCombs said Vail Resorts picked up the process when it purchased the ski area last year. He said Vail Resorts has extensive experience working with the Forest Service on large ski area projects. “This experience, combined with a healthy relationship between the resort and the district, helped the project stay on track during the ownership transition,” he said. “No substantive changes were made as a result of Vail Resorts acquiring Crested Butte Mountain Resort.
“Generally, comments have been positive,” McCombs continued. “Folks are excited about the new recreation opportunities proposed—yet, with any complex land management proposal, there are concerns as well. The formal objection process is designed specifically to get those concerns out in the open and addressed before a final decision is made.”
High Country Conservation Advocates public lands director Matt Reed said the group has commented on the expansion proposal during the process, but is in no way opposing the expansion.
“HCCA commented on the draft EIS, focusing primarily on East River impacts and in-stream flow requirements,” Reed explained this week. “We are not opposing the expansion and will not be filing an administrative objection, but we are hoping for some clarifications from the Forest Service regarding those topics, and will be sending a letter to the agency.”
CBMR officials are glad the process is moving forward but are not ready to commit to any expansion timeline.
“Crested Butte Mountain Resort is awaiting the final record of decision from the U.S. Forest Service, which we anticipate being issued mid-May,” said Tim Baker, general manager of CBMR. “We appreciate the thoroughness and work by our partners at the U.S. Forest Service and respect the process. In the meantime, CBMR is focused on continuing to assess how we can improve the guest experience moving forward and will share any plans or timelines as they become available. This season has been incredible and is setting the resort up for some amazing spring skiing conditions, and we are thankful to be finishing the season on a strong note.”
As for timing for a final approval, McCombs concluded, “I’m hopeful that any objections received will be resolved both efficiently and to the satisfaction of the objectors, leading to a final decision executed later this summer.”