Breckenridge: Spots still open for Peak 6 site visit

Forest Service taking comments on Breckenridge ski area expansion through Aug. 9

Does Breckenridge Ski Area need more terrain? Visit the proposed Peak 6 expansion area July 14 and learn more about the proposal to build a new lift and cut trails through healthy spruce and fir forests in an alpine zone considered to be important habitat for rare lynx.

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s not too late to sign up for the July 14 site visit to the proposed Peak 6 expansion area at Breckenridge.

U.S. Forest Service winter sports ranger Shelly Grail said that, after keeping an eye on the snowpack in the area, it appears that the site visit will able to proceed as planned. The general idea is to hike to the proposed project area to get a sense of what the area looks like in the summer.

After a well-attended winter site visit, some people asked the Forest Service to do a similar tour in the summer. The group will meet at the base of the Colorado Superchair at 9 a.m. and hike out to Peak 6. Grail said there is still some snow on the ground, so people should be prepared to hike on snow. Also, be prepared to spend most of the day outside.

“We encourage you to bring your lunch, plenty of water and whatever else you need to stay out all day,” she wrote in an email to people planning to attend the site visit. “We’ll hike up to the proposed top lift terminal location; along the northern boundary of the project; down to the mid-load station and then back to the bottom of the Independence Superchair.”

Anyone else who would like to attend is welcome, but is asked to call Grail at (970) 468-5400 or email sgrail@fs.fed.us to RSVP.

At issue is the highly controversial expansion proposal that includes a new lift serving several hundred acres of new terrain on Peak 6. Some of the new terrain would consist of trails cut through forests, and some is above-treeline terrain.

The public comment period for the draft environmental impact statement for the project has been extended through August 9. Background and detailed stories on Peak 6 are online here.

Breckenridge ski resort officials claim the expansion will alleviate peak-day crowding without increasing total skier visits. The resort wants to add a new lift on Peak 6 and cut more than a hundred acres of new trails through high-elevation spruce and fir forests. The expansion would also include a few hundred acres of terrain above treeline.

The expansion has been controversial in Breckenridge since it was introduced a few years ago. Many people reject the claim that the expansion won’t result in a net increase in skier visits. The initial proposal triggered an avalanche of critical comments from residents worried about environmental and social impacts. Subsequently, a community task force was convened to try and resolve some of the concerns.

The resort has committed to capping its expansion plans with the Peak 6 project unless further expansion is requested by the community.

As part of the environmental study, the Forest Service shaped a scaled-down version of the expansion, with less impact to the mostly untouched forests and more of an emphasis on making improvements within the resort’s existing footprint.

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