Forest Service releases draft study for A-Basin expansion

Public comment sought on draft EIS

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Staff Report

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is one step closer to gaining final approval for a 492-acre expansion that would include a new lift in the Beavers area. The ski area plan also calls for replacing Pallavicini chairlift, removing the Norway chairlift and adding a surface lift to ferry skiers and snowboarders to the popular backside Montezuma Bowl terrain.

Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft environmental study for the planned projects. The agency will take public comments on the draft EIS through March 21. More information is online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=41664. A public meeting on the draft Eis will be held at The Keystone Center (1628 St John Rd., Dillon, CO 80435) on March 2, 2016 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.

In a cover letter released with the draft study, White River National Forest Supervisor said he is currently evaluating the recreational benefits of these projects against the identified resource impacts these project may create. Continue reading

Forest Service OKs Breck summer expansion plan

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Summer is about to get busier on the slopes of the Tenmile Range.

Summer attractions expected to draw 150,000 new tourists

Staff Report

The U.S. Forest Service is giving Vail Resorts a green light for more development on the slopes of the Tenmile Range, at Breckenridge Ski Area.

In a final decision released this week, White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams approved a significant expansion of recreation infrastructure, including zip lines and canopy tours, as well as more off-highway vehicle tours and an expansion of the Peak 7 hut. Continue reading

Breckenridge voters approve new lift ticket tax

Morning alpenglow paints the summit of Breckenridge Ski Area.

Starting next season, some skiers and snowboarders will be paying an extra 4.5 percent on their lift tickets (season passes excluded) to help pay for needed transportation and parking infrastructure. @bberwyn photo.

New revenue to fund transportation improvements

Staff Report

The turnout wasn’t exactly overwhelming, but those Breckenridge voters who did bother to cast a ballot Tuesday overwhelmingly voted in favor of a ballot measure  authorizing a 4.5 percent lift ticket tax.

The preliminary tally shows 917 votes in favor of ballot measure 2A, with just 185 no votes. The new tax is aimed at funding long-term funding for parking and transit solutions in the jam-packed tourist town. Continue reading

Wet spring and summer may dampen fall colors

Some aspens and cottonwoods have been hit by leaf blight

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An aspen stand in the Lower Blue Valley, north of Silverthorne, Colorado.

Staff Report

FRISCO — Colorado’s wet spring and summer dampened the fire danger and kept the state nearly drought-free, but there may be a down side. Some of the state’s aspens and cottonwoods may not be at their most brilliant this autumn, after leaf-spot diseases afflicted some stands in northern Colorado and along the Front Range.

The Colorado State Forest Service says tree experts have been seeing an unusually high degree of leaf blight spreading as far south as Aspen, the Collegiate Peaks and Colorado Springs.

At least two fungal diseases are to blame for the leaves now showing significant spotting or dark splotches. Marssonina leaf spot is caused by the Marssonina fungus and is the most common leaf disease of aspen and cottonwoods in Colorado. The disease can be identified by the presence of dark brown spots or flecks on leaves, which can then fuse into large, black splotches on severely infected leaves. Continue reading

Morning photo: Mountain colors

Dawn patrol … and more

FRISCO —What could be better than a rainbow stretched across the jagged skyline of the Tenmile Range? Maybe the scattered rays of the morning sun coming up over the Continental Divide, or the vibrant buzz of a bumblebee perched on purple thistle, or deepening purple and orange clouds over Frisco’s landmark Peak One. It’s tough to choose, that’s for sure, so I’m glad I don’t have to pick just one favorite image from this week’s photo wanderings in Summit County. If you love these shots, check out the online Summit Voice gallery, where a purchase goes a long way toward supporting independent Colorado environmental journalism.

Summer rains keep Colorado mostly drought-free

El Niño projected to bring above average autumn precipitation

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Spring and summer rains helped make up for a winter snowfall deficit in Colorado, where statewide precipitation was 98 percent of average 10 months into the 2015 water year. Graph courtesy NRCS.

Staff Report

FRISCO —Serious drought conditions persisted across the far West in July, but Colorado’s wet spring and summer helped boost the state’s water supplies and stream flow forecasts going into the late summer and fall. Only two small slices of the state have experienced abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Continue reading

Morning photo: Golden days

Sweet sunrise …

FRISCO — With smoke and haze from distant wildfires hanging in the sky, the morning sunlight has been diffuse and gentle, creating some spectacular sunrise scenes along the shore of Dillon Reservoir. It may be slightly comforting that the fires are hundreds of miles away, but at the same time, it’s a reminder that the entire West has been getting warmer and drier for decades. There’s no reason to think that Colorado’s current moist phase will last forever. Based on the regional patterns, it seems a lot more likely that the next drought in the Rockies will be even worse than the last, but for now we have a respite and a chance to prepare for the next inevitable wave of wildfires when the weather turns dry once again.

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