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Breckenridge Town Council may ask the U.S. Forest Service to delay Peak 6 approval pending completion of a lynx study

A map showing one of the alternatives for the proposed Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area. Click for a full-size version.

Town council and Summit County Commissioners will finalize formal comments on controversial ski area expansion proposal

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Based on a draft comment letter to the Forest Service, the Breckenridge Town council is prepared to take a strong stance on the proposed Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area, asking the agency to set a cap on daily skier visits and delay approval of the Peak 6 plan until a ski area lynx study at Silverton Mountain has been completed.

The draft letter is up for discussion at the Aug. 23 town council meeting beginning at about 3:45 p.m. The draft letter also questions whether the Forest Service preferred alternative includes enough legitimate intermediate terrain to accommodate the stated purpose of the expansion, which is to disperse skiers and alleviate crowding on existing terrain.

The council’s position probably won’t satisfy some critics of the Peak 6 proposal, who had hoped that the council would wholly endorse a no-action alternative, included by the Forest Service as a baseline against which to measure the impacts of the other two action alternatives.

As discussed at a council work session two weeks ago, the letter also asks the Forest Service and the ski area to define a daily on-mountain capacity as a target for the ski area not to exceed, and leaves it up to the agency and the resort to figure out how to stay under that cap. Continue reading

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Breckenridge: Town council looks for Peak 6 consensus

Breckenridge Town Council members are formulating comments on the draft study for a proposed expansion on to Peak 6.

Elected representatives about to comment on draft ski area expansion plan in the name of the town and its citizens

By Bob Berwyn & Jenney Coberly

BRECKENRIDGE — Some town council members said they want Breckenridge Ski Resort to consider blackout dates, upgrades to existing lifts and an overall cap on skiers to address the issue of skier congestion that has taken center stage during the recent discussions about a controversial plan to add lift-served skiing in Peak 6.

Those ideas, and more, surfaced Aug. 9 during a council work session aimed at writing a set of formal comments to the Forest Service. The agency is currently taking comments on a draft environmental study on the proposal. Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams has picked a preferred alternative that would add about 550 acres of new terrain and a six-seat lift on Peak 6. Detailed project and comment information is online at http://breckenridgepeak6.com/

Most council members were quite outspoken about what they want to tell the agency, while a few demurred on making direct comments, citing concerns about a divided town and divided town council.

In absentia, Mayor John Warner said the resort should create a five to seven-year plan for upgrading existing lifts, and work to mitigate impacts to backcountry skiers by adding a new backcountry access point and new trailhead.

Council member Jen McAtamney said the Forest Service should wait to amend forest plan wildlife conservation standards until there is more information on lynx movement in the Tenmile Range.

Council member Jeffrey Bergeron said the draft study doesn’t pass the sniff test, and that he, for one, is not ready to make Peak 6 a sacrificial lamb to the altar of ski area expansion. Listen to the entire discussion in the following audio clip and read more Summit Voice stories on Peak 6 here for background.

Breckenridge: Some Peak 6 history

Ski area zoning was at issue in 2002 White River forest plan revision

From left to right, Peaks 8, 7 and 6, in the Tenmile Range near Breckenridge, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — While Vail Resorts may claim that Peak 6 has always been allocated for lift-served skiing, the U.S. Forest Service at one point proposed limiting Summit County ski areas to their existing boundaries.

And an unprecedented boundary adjustment that affected both the Breckenridge Nordic Center and Breckenridge Ski Area also helped set the stage for the current expansion proposal on Peak 6.

The preferred alternative (Alternative D) in a draft version of the White River National Forest plan released in the late 1990s under then-forest supervisor Martha Ketelle would have taken Peak 6 out of the ski area prescription. That proposal was based in part on concern about impacts to natural resources. At the time, the EPA was very involved in the forest plan revision as a cooperating agency.

In early comments on the plan, the EPA was very specific about outlining its concerns. Even though the ski industry likes to claim that its footprint is relatively small when compared to the overall size of the White River National Forest, the EPA said ski area development has the single-largest impact to alpine tundra. Continue reading

Breckenridge Town Council gets Peak 6 update

Resort officials say new terrain is needed to stay competitive

The view from the summit of Peak 6, now a popular backcountry ski destination that would become part of Breckenridge ski area's developed terrain under a proposal being reviewed by the U.S. Forest Service. PHOTO COURTESY ELLEN HOLLINSHEAD.

Listen to an audio transcript of the Peak 6 presentation at the Jan. 25 Breckenridge Town Council work session, including a presentation by ski area chief Pat Campbell and questions from town council members.

By Bob Berwyn & Jenney Coberly

SUMMIT COUNTY — Even as she acknowledged that Breckenridge has been among the top two most-visited ski areas in the U.S. during the past decade, resort chief Pat Campbell said the ski area needs the proposed Peak 6 expansion to stay competitive as a premier resort in the ski industry.

“It’s no secret that Breckenridge Ski Resort in the last decade has been has been either the most or second-most visited resort in the United States,” Campbell said Tuesday afternoon, updating the Breckenridge Town Council on the status of the expansion plan. “In fact we do that on less than half the skiable acreage that Vail has,” Campbell said. “Peak 6, we feel, is our best opportunity to really mitigate some of the crowding and guest experience issues that we have come to experience.” Continue reading

Commentary: More questions than answers on Peak 6

De-constructing the jargon

Tenmile Range skyline near Breckenridge, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — It’s sometimes tough to wade through the bureaucratic language used by government officials, and the most recent update on the Peak 6 expansion plan at Breckenridge is no exception. It’s one thing to use precise language with descriptive terms and commonly accepted definitions — that helps ensure that everyone in the conversation is on the same page.

It’s another thing to use confusing phrases that might mislead readers and obscure the real issues. There was no author identified for the Peak 6 memo included in the town council packet, but it has the feel of being written by committee, and doesn’t do much to illuminate what’s at stake. It’s full of passive clauses and three-syllable words where one-syllable words would be just fine.

Here’s a little deconstruction, and some questions I would ask as a town council member. Some of the  original language from the memo is in bolded, followed by my comments in italics. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Peak 6 expansion battle goes Facebook

A map showing one potential layout for a new lift and trail system on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area.

Will social media play a role in the outcome of a classic ski town showdown?

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Like almost everything else in the information age, a battle over a proposed ski area expansion in Breckenridge, Colorado, will be partially waged on the web. Both supporters and opponents of the plan to build a new lift and clear-cut new trails on Peak 6 are signing up on Facebook pages to take a stand — or at least to stay informed about the issue.

So far, the Support Peak 6 page has 75 “likes,” while the Save Peak 6 page has 13 “friends” and 43 “likes.”

Breckenridge Ski Area first proposed the expansion a couple of years ago. In the initial round of formal Forest Service documents, the resort and the agency said the new terrain is needed to meet demand for intermediate terrain at what has been the country’s most-visited ski resort the past few seasons. Breckenridge has averaged about 1.5 million skier visits per season.

Critics of the expansion are concerned about ski area growth in general, loss of access to nearby backcountry skiing opportunities, as well as potential impacts to natural resources; lynx, elk and healthy old-growth forests high in the Tenmile Range. Continue reading

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