Skiing: Weber Gulch Hut gets Forest Service OK

Approval includes summer closure to protect wildlife

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The new Weber Gulch Hut on Baldy Mountain, near Breckenridge, Colorado, will provide access to some outstanding ski terrain.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — After more than five years of study, the nonprofit Summit Huts Association has a green light to build a new 16-person backcountry shelter on the northern flanks of Baldy Mountain, near Breckenridge, to be called the Weber Gulch Hut.

To protect wildlife habitat, the new hut will only be open in the winter, which represents a change from SHA’s initial proposal to include summer use.

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams signed the formal decision notice on June 17, explaining that he weighed all the public comments and relied on a team of scientists and ski experts, who found in their environmental analysis that the hut wouldn’t have a significant impact on the environment. All documents related to the Weber Gulch Hut are posted on this Forest Service web page. Continue reading

Letters: Support for new Colorado wilderness

Will Congress act?

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A view of the Gore Range from the flanks of the Williams Fork Range, at the edge of a new wilderness area proposed by Congressman Jared Polis. @bberwyn photo.

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A map of the areas covered by the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act.

FRISCO — In May, Congressman Jared Polis reintroduced a bill to create about 39,000 acres of new wilderness in Summit and Eagle counties.

According to Polis, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act will help sustain recreational resources, protect watersheds, preserve important wildfire corridors, and strengthen Colorado’s tourism economy.

Along with new wilderness, the bill would also designate 16,000 acres as special management areas for recreation, and where some other activities, including wildfire mitigation and forest health treatments would be permitted.

Trace the history of Polis’ push for new wilderness in the central Colorado mountains in these Summit Voice stories going back to 2010.

Letters:

Dear Editor,

Congressman Jared Polis’ introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act should be applauded. This bill, the result of 5 years of local community engagement and consensus, is important not just to the central Rocky Mountains but to Colorado as a whole. Many Coloradans know this area for the endless recreational opportunities, whether it’s hiking, biking, camping, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, or just relaxing. As the owner of Seymour Lodging Corp, Colorado wilderness is of particular importance to me.

Owning a small business is never easy, particularly when your business is dependent on external factors such as weather and consumer discretionary income. Fortunately for myself and many other small business owners across the state, the designation of wilderness, in addition to enhancing quality of life, makes local tourism a little more secure.

The Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act protects many areas in the White River National Forest, which draws more than 9 million visitors annually; these visitors then support local tourism and outdoor recreation businesses.

The outdoor recreation industry in Colorado is a critical part of the state’s economy which generates $13.2 billion annually in consumer spending, and supports 125,000 jobs which pay over $4 billion in wages to Coloradans. Many small mountain towns count on tourism and outdoor recreation to stay afloat. I know personally how difficult this can be, and I would like to thank Congressman Polis for investing in the state of Colorado.

Richard Seymour

***

Dear Editor,

After reading about the recent introduction of the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act, I wanted to publicly thank Representative Jared Polis for his work protecting Colorado. As an avid hiker, I deeply enjoy spending free time in the Central Mountains.

Over the past 5 years Rep. Polis has worked with a plethora of local stakeholders to ensure that this legislation truly helps to support the local community- this hard work has paid off, garnering the support of everyone from mountain bikers and conservationists to hunters and small businessmen.

If passed, the Continental Divide Wilderness and Recreation Act would provide important protections for key watersheds in the Central Mountains and safeguard our ever-valuable Colorado water for local communities and the greater Front Range. As well, the Act would protect some of Colorado’s best fishing streams and preserve valuable wildlife habitat; thank you, Representative Polis!

Eddie Welsh

Eddie Welsh is history and political science major at Colorado State University.  He has a special interest in environmental issues here in Colorado, particularly in the Central Mountains where he spend a great deal of  time.

Morning photo: Odds and ends

Random shots

FRISCO — There’s nothing like watching the full moon come up over the Rocky Mountains and last night, I had the chance to snap a few shots as the orb rose right behind Keystone Mountain with the resort’s night skiing lights visible below. And early Saturday morning a small flock of birds visited the budding aspen trees outside our kitchen window, enabling me to get a few closeups while brewing coffee at the same time. Oh, Colorado! For daily photography updates, follow our Instagram feed, and visit our online gallery for an amazing selection of prints and greeting cards.

Breckenridge voters reject Main Street marijuana sales

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No buds on Main Street, Breckenridge.

Status quo in Colorado resort town, as voters say no to Main Street pot sales by 2-1 margin

Staff Report

FRISCO — Breckenridge locals and tourists won’t be able to refresh their stash of legal weed on Main Street. Town voters decided in a special mail-in ballot election this week that they’d rather see retail marijuana sales limited to outskirts of town.

The non-binding vote will guide the town council in developing any new retail marijuana ordinances. And even though it was only an advisory vote, turnout was big. More than 1,300 voters (44 percent) cast ballots, more than in the last town council election. In a release, the town said 925 people voted against allowing retail pot sales on Main Street, with 400 people voting yes. Continue reading

Forest Service seeks comment on plan to build new road to a private inholding on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area

Access law obligates Forest Service to consider road access

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Will this be the ultimate ski-in, ski-out cabin at Breckenridge?

Staff Report

FRISCO — The owners of a 10-acre private parcel surrounded by national forest lands on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area may soon have the ultimate ski-in, ski-out cabin.

The U.S. Forest Service this week started taking public comment on a plan to provide access to the private inholding, located near the top of the Zendo Chair and base of the Kensho chair. Continue reading

Breckenridge to vote on Main Street pot sales

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Buds in Breckenridge?

Drug stigma lingers for some residents of Colorado mountain town

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Breckenridge voters will have a chance to micro-manage their town’s regulation of legal marijuana sales next month, with a special election set to determine whether the herb and its derivatives will be sold on Main Street.

If you’re not from Colorado, you may scratching your head at this point, wondering why, if pot is already legal, is there yet another election. After all, Breckenridge helped set the stage for legalization in 2009. when voters decriminalized the possession of small amounts of cannabis. In 2012, 70 percent of the ski town’s voters gave Amendment 64 a thumbs up. Continue reading

Vail ditches ‘Epic Pass’ as of April 1

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Front Range skiers may have to get lift tickets for Breckenridge through a statewide lottery.

Resort officials discuss best way to allocate tickets to powder-crazed Front Rangers

Staff Report

FRISCO — Vail Resorts announced Tuesday that it’s curtailing sales of the so-called Epic Pass effective April 1 due to overcrowding on the slopes of Breckenridge, Keystone and Vail.

The move came as part of a rebranding effort that will see Vail Resorts focus on quality rather than quantity, chairman and CEO Bob Slatz said in a prepared statement.

“This spring break, we’ve come to realize that enough is enough,” Slatz said. “We’ve listened to our customers and we’ve heard them loud and clear. Starting April 1, the Epic Pass will be history.”

The announcement came after a busy weekend at Breckenridge, when the lift line for the Colorado SuperChair extended from the base of the lift to within about 100 feet of the top.

“It was kind of ridiculous,” said Aurora skier Charles “Tazzie” Wayright. “We got on the lift, side-slipped down to the end of the line and then rode back up again. By the time we got to the top it was time to head back to Denver to try and beat the I-70 jam,” Wayright said, adding that the drive back to the Front Range “only” took five hours.

“A couple of weeks ago, it took us four hours just to get from Breck to the tunnel,” he said, wondering whether Vail will replace the Epic Pass with some other product.

Breckenridge Ski Area chief Cat Rambell said the resort is thinking about using a lottery system to allocate precious day passes among Front Range skiers who flock to the slopes on snowy weekends.

Another option is to direct skiers according to their vehicles, Slatz added, quickly saying that it wouldn’t be a case of vehicular profiling.

“If you think about it, it makes sense. Hummers and Escalades will be directed to Beaver Creek; all other giant SUVs go to Vail, and, oh yeah, Volvos, too,” Slatz said. Minivans will be steered toward Keystone, while Subarus showing the slightest bit of rust will have to make the trek up to A-Basin.

*Bwah-hah-hah-haaaa … APRIL FOOLS! I’m actually a big fan of Vail’s pass products. I think it makes skiing much more accessible and attractive. It’s absurd to blame Vail Resorts for I-70 traffic jams because it sells a product that people want.

That said, they could probably optimize their pricing to incentivize off-peak travel and skiing. In my mind, that would include a higher-priced unrestricted pass and deeper discounts for mid-week skiing.

And what about, finally once again, a locals pass that includes ALL local resorts, specifically Copper and Loveland.

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