U.S. Forest Service approves mountain improvements plan

Red Lady Lodge a priority

New lifts and new terrain at Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) are one step closer to fruition, following the approval of the Main Mountain Improvements Plan by the U.S. Forest Service.



 Crested Butte Mountain Resort has been crafting the Main Mountain Improvements Plan since 2005, according to general manager Randy Barrett. The plan includes more than $50 million in upgrades, with new high-speed lifts for the Painter Boy area, a new lift out of Teocalli Bowl, and numerous glading and trail improvement projects.
The plan underwent an environmental assessment by the Forest Service in November 2007 as a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. In January 2008, Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison (GMUG) National Forest supervisor Charlie Richmond signed an approval of the plan, also known as a decision notice.
An appeals period followed the decision notice, and will end this Thursday, February 28. GMUG environmental coordinator Jeff Burch, who is overseeing the appeals period, was unavailable for comment at press time.
CBMR vice president and chief marketing officer Ken Stone says the Mountain Improvements Plan represents the overall vision between the Forest Service and the resort for major improvements and changes on the hill. “It’s a critical guiding document for long-term planning,” he says.
But the plan doesn’t include a timeline for each proposed improvement. “That’s up for resort discussion,” Barrett says. “Right now our focus is the Red Lady Lodge, which isn’t a part of this plan.” The Red Lady Lodge is an approved on-mountain dining facility to be constructed at the top of the Red Lady Express lift.
Barrett says as the Red Lady Lodge is being built, the resort will try to do some of the improvements in the plan. “We’re going to try and chew off small areas and make improvements down the road,” he says.
Glading (the process of removing certain trees and brush to make a run easier to ski) is one such improvement that could take place this summer, Barrett says.
Barrett says the glading scheme in the plan represents just about everything that could be done within the mountain’s current boundaries. “It would be nice every year to have some sort of new glading project—we have years of glading ahead of us in the document,” he says.
Once Red Lady Lodge is finished, Barrett says they are not going to rush to get all the improvements finished. “We don’t want to do everything at once,” he says, not only because of budget constraints, but also for marketing reasons. “Every year how do we create a story where folks can see what has been going on?” he says.
Stone agrees and says some of the improvements will be immediately noticeable to guests, such as new lifts, while other improvements may be recognized by locals, such as the glading projects. “I look at this plan from a sales and marketing context to get a long-term strategy on how to build our market,” Stone says.
Not everything in the original Mountain Improvements Plan was entirely approved, Barrett says. Some of the glading projects will have to avoid certain tree stands and use additional mitigation, and a trail project known as the Silver Queen Skiway was not approved—or more specifically, Forest Service supervisor Richmond requested that CBMR make other improvements before attempting the Skiway.
The Skiway would have required a considerable amount of earth moving, Barrett says, but would have given skiers an easier route into Paradise Bowl from the top of the Silver Queen, by widening the trails, filling slopes, and removing obstacles.
Richmond suggested the resort first continue with existing plans of moving the ski patrol headquarters to the top of the Silver Queen, and moving the base of the High Lift several hundred feet uphill.
“It was a huge project,” Barrett says of the Skiway, and agrees that it might be better to see how the other improvements work. “If we can create one more way for folks to get down, it will really help the traffic, and moving the High Lift and patrol headquarters might do that,” he says.
CBMR will still need additional approval from the Forest Service once work begins on individual items in the plan. GMUG public service officer Corey Wong says this approval will likely come along with the approval of the resort’s yearly operating plan, but there could be more site-specific approvals required, such as for new lifts.
The appeals period for the decision notice ends Thursday, but Wong said he did not know if any appeals had been made. Wong says appeals are typically resolved in informal meetings, but if it is a serious issue the Forest Service has a special appeals office that will handle the review.
Stone says the plan hasn’t met much resistance from the community. He says, “It’s a very solid and realistic plan for the mountain. Most people are in agreement that everything in the plan is positive for the community and the resort.”

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