Op-Ed: Plan for vastly expanded summer recreation at Breckenridge Ski Area deserve close scrutiny

Proposal includes zip lines, high alpine 4WD tours and summer operations of the Imperial Chair

Vail Resorts wants to ramp up summer recreation at Breckenridge Ski Area.

Vail Resorts wants to ramp up summer recreation at Breckenridge Ski Area.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Vail Resorts wants to significantly expand the scope of summer activities at Breckenridge Ski Resort on lands used under permit from the U.S. Forest Service. That means more chairlifts could soon be humming all year long at what is already one of the busiest ski mountains in the world.

The proposal includes zip lines, tree canopy tours and even four-wheel drive tours to remote sections of the Tenmile Range — along with plenty of new construction at the summit of Peak 8 and around the Peak 7 warming hut.

According to the proposal, the resort currently lacks “adventure or thrill-based experiences,” and “interpretive programs that offer an educational experience for users seeking to learn more about the environment.”

The summer improvements plan also includes restoration activities at the ski area that would be incorporated into the plan after the public has had a chance to offer initial comments during a formal scoping phase for the project, the first step in an in-depth Environmental Impact Study that will evaluate impacts. Continue reading

Colorado: Conservation groups reach deal with Vail Resorts on Breck Peak 6 expansion and withdraw threat of lawsuit

Vail Resorts ups contribution to lynx conservation fund

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Development of the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area will probably begin sometime in the next few weeks and should be ready for skiing this coming season.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — There will be no lawsuit challenging the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area, as conservation groups say they’ve reached an agreement with Vail Resorts that will help ensure long-term conservation of threatened lynx in the area.

“Our main concern was lynx conservation,” said Rocky Mountain Wild attorney Matt Sandler, who was involved in the recent talks with Vail Resorts. As part of the agreement, Vail Resorts will up its contribution to a conservation fund that will be used for habitat improvements in the region, benefiting lynx and other species. Continue reading

Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion set to start within weeks

Forest Service says resort has submitted construction plans

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Work will soon begin on a long-planned ski terrain expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area unless opponents make a last-minute legal bid to stop the project.

See more Peak 6 stories here.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Forest Service rangers say they are in the process of reviewing the final plans for the planned Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area. The clear-cutting of new ski trails could begin in just a few weeks, according to the agency.

The resort has submitted detailed plans for tree-cutting, erosion control, stormwater runoff and other aspects of the project, according to Shelly Grail,  a winter sports program administrator for the Dillon Ranger District.

Grail said the resort could start clear-cutting the new ski trails as early as mid-June, depending on the weather. The Forest Service has certain requirements regarding snow cover for tree removal operations, so the rate of snowmelt will affect the exact start date of the project. The Forest Service also will do some nesting surveys before work starts, she added. Continue reading

Vail, Breckenridge and Copper extend the season

Late-season snow spurs limited re-opening April 19-21

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Fine spring skiing conditions at Breckenridge.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado skiers will get a bonus weekend at Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Vail, with all three areas firing up some of their lifts for a final spring fling.

“After skiing some amazing powder turns on closing day and more heavy snow in the forecast this week, we just don’t have the heart to shut down Breck’s lifts just yet,” said Pat Campbell, chief operating officer for the Summit County resort.

“Mother Nature is a fickle business partner and apparently she wasn’t ready for the ski season to be over. We can’t think of a better way to thank our loyal guests for celebrating our 40th Anniversary season with us,” said Gary Rodgers, president and general manager of Copper Mountain Resort.

Copper Mountain will open American Flyer, Sierra and Timberline lifts this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 19-21, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day. Skier services including food and beverage offerings and rental and retail options will be limited to Center Village.

Breckenridge will open 1180 acres, lifts and terrain on Peak 8 only this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 19-21, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day after picking up 60 inches of snow in April. Lifts open will include:  The BreckConnect Gondola, Colorado SuperChair, Rip’s Ride, 6 Chair, T-Bar and the Imperial Express SuperChair; Park Lane and Trygve’s Terrain Parks will also be open. Continue reading

Colorado: Breckenridge Ski Area wants to develop new summer recreation facilities on national forest lands

Resort submits plan to U.S. Forest Service

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A summer view toward Breckenridge from the flanks of the Tenmile Range near Peak 6.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Breckenridge Ski Area is preparing to create an outdoor-themed summer amusement park on the public lands it leases from the U.S. Forest Service. The resort wants to add  14 miles of beginner, intermediate and family oriented mountain biking trails across peaks 7 and 8, as well as adventure hiking zones, zip lines and ropes courses.

Vail Resorts submitted a formal proposal to the U.S. Forest Service this week. Following acceptance of the proposal, the agency will begin an comprehensive environmental review to analyze and disclose site-specific environmental impacts. If the U.S. Forest Service approves a plan, Vail Resorts would begin construction on Epic Discovery activities in the summer of 2015.

In a press release, the company touted the environmental and educational components of the planned new activities. According to the release, the company will partner with The Nature Conservancy and will donate 1 percent of all summer lift ticket and activity revenue toward forest restoration projects. Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledges lynx mistakes in Breckenridge Ski Area’s Peak 6 expansion plan

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A transplanted Canada lynx watches a Colorado Division of Wildlife biologist. Photo courtesy Tanya Shenk/ Colorado Division of Wildlife.

Federal approval missed a key step in addressing requirements of Endangered Species Act

Click here to read all Summit Voice Peak 6 stories

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Federal biologists have acknowledged that they left out a key step in their approval of the proposed Peak 6 ski area expansion at Breckenridge, a project that would degrade a patch of lynx habitat in the Tenmile Range.

“We reviewed the … biological opinion, and we agree that our incidental take statement lacks a meaningful mechanism to reinitiate consultation if the project exceeds the anticipated incidental take,” U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Western Colorado Supervisor Patricia Gelatt wrote in a March 6 letter responding to a formal legal notice from Rocky Mountain Wild and the Blue River Group of the Sierra Club.

Gelatt said her agency plans to meet with the Forest Service and modify its biological opinion to address the deficiencies before the Notice of Intent expires on April 19, but she didn’t explain how agency biologists missed including the required regulatory mechanisms after discussing the expansion with the Forest Service for several years. Continue reading

Colorado: Vail Resorts says mid-winter business rebounded

Major capital investments announced for upcoming seasons

Vail Resorts is talking up the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge as part of its capital investment plan for the coming season.

Vail Resorts is talking up the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge as part of its capital investment plan for the coming season.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Vail Resorts said business bounced back after a slow start to the season, with some of the company’s resorts posting record business during the Christmas holiday period. VR’s net income climbed 30.5 percent, to $60.5 million in the second fiscal quarter compared to last season, with skier visits up 2.9 percent and mountain net revenue up by 9.5 percent.

“We are very pleased with our performance in the second quarter of fiscal 2013, which was notable for two distinct dynamics we experienced in the quarter,” VR CEO Rob Katz said this week during a call announcing the company’s second quarter earnings. “The first was our results through the middle of December, which were marked by unusually warm and dry weather in Colorado that limited the terrain we could open, leading to lower than expected results for our four Colorado resorts.  Continue reading

Colorado: U.S. Forest Service rejects appeal of Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area

Opponents of controversial expansion considering legal action

The Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski area would add about 550 acres of new terrain.

*Read all Summit Voice Peak 6 stories

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Barring legal action, Breckenridge Ski Area could start implementing the controversial Peak 6 expansion as soon as early December after regional Forest Service officials rejected an appeal filed by a coalition of conservation groups, skiers and local residents. Read the appeal here.

Scott Armentrout, Supervisor of the Gunnison, Uncompahgre and Grand Mesa National Forests, the appeal reviewing officer, wrote Nov. 14 that he found that the approval for the project did not violate any federal laws, regulations or policies and recommended upholding White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams’ decision to approve the 550-acre expansion.

The formal decision was made by appeals deciding officer Brian Ferebee, a deputy regional forester for resources. Read the full appeal decision here, and a summary of the appeal decision here.

“I agree with the ARO’s analysis as presented in the enclosed letter. All appeal issues raised have been considered and the record is adequate to support the Forest Supervisor’s decision,” Ferebee wrote in his Nov. 19 decision letter. “I affirm the Forest Supervisor’s decision to approve the Breckenridge Ski Area Peak 6 Project. I deny requested relief to set aside the decision or complete additional analysis.” Continue reading

Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion wins Forest Service OK, but community concerns, and some hard feelings, remain

45-day appeal period starts when the decision is formally published

Community interest led to a Forest Service-led site visit last summer, attended by dozens of Breckenridge residents and visitors.

By Bob Berwyn

* Background and stories detailing the four-year process at this Summit Voice page.

* More details on the decision here.

SUMMIT COUNTY — White River National Forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said Tuesday his decision to approve a 550-acre expansion at Breckenridge Ski Resort is an appropriate balance between resource conservation and recreational use of the forest, but some critics of the expansion remain unconvinced.

Fitzwilliams acknowledged that the expansion will affect 81 acres of habitat for threatened lynx, but promised that the Forest Service will work with community partners to improve the overall conditions of surrounding forests, with an eye toward restoring important wildlife habitat.

“No question, there are impacts, and I think we’ve disclosed them in a fair and balanced manner … and through mitigation and design criteria, we can mitigate them to the point where they are acceptable,” Fitzwilliams said during a media conference call on the Peak 6 decision.

The expansion has been in the works since 2008, when a scoping open house in Breckenridge drew about 200 critical comments that questioned the basic rationale for the expansion and outlined concern about impacts to the environment and the local community, including parking, housing, childcare and overall resort growth. Continue reading

Morning photo: Summit view

Mountain brilliance

Looking at Breckenridge Ski Area from the Carbonate Mine on Baldy Mountain.

*Editor’s note: Today’s morning photo essay is a guest post by Ed Carley. Visit his website, photoadaybreck.wordpress.com and check out his Twitter feed, @ed_carley, for more.

By Ed Carley

I’ve been taking photos of mountains since 2002 when I moved to Boone, North Carolina to attend Appalachian State University, and where I began carrying a camera with me on my hiking and rock climbing adventures. My first taste of the Colorado Rockies came in 2003 when I spent the summer living in Crested Butte and mountain biking in every spare moment. I moved to Summit County in 2007 and have been a full time resident since then. In that time I’ve carried my camera with me on many hiking, biking and snowboarding excursions in to these amazing mountains. I’m happy to share my photos with Summit County Citizens Voice readers. Continue reading

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