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

Critics plan appeal of Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion

DU Law Clinic may help with administrative or legal challenge

The Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge will very likely be appealed and a legal challenge is not out of the question. Click on the map a couple of times to see the full-size version.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service approval of the Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area probably won’t go unchallenged. Longtime critics of the project scrutinizing the the final environmental study say they are likely to appeal several elements of the decision, including, fundamentally, whether the expansion meets the stated purpose and need.

Vail Resorts claimed from the start that the new lifts and terrain will ease congestion at Breckenridge by spreading out skiers on peak visitation days, but at least some of the data in the Final Environmental Impact Statement seem to contradict that conclusion.

Skiers and snowboarders will still have to use the busiest lifts out of the Peak 8 base area to reach the new terrain. At one point in the document the Forest Service appears to flat-out acknowledge that the expansion won’t significantly shorten lift wait times on Peak 7 and Peak 8.

All the documents for the Peak 6 project are at this Forest Service website. Extensive background stories about Peak 6 are online at this Summit Voice page. Some of the ongoing community concerns and criticisms of the Forest Service decision are spelled out on the Save Peak 6 Facebook page.

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

Breckenridge: New Peak 8 development in the works

Town council to discuss development agreement that would enable site work before a final building permit is issued

More development at Peak 8?

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The latest proposal for a new timeshare development at Peak 8, up for discussion at a July 24 town council meeting, could give the developers (Breckenridge Grand Vacation) an opportunity to get a head start on the proposed timeshare project by allowing them to start demolishing the Bergenhof and building infrastructure before the actual building permit is issued.

That would be a new path for the town, since development codes don’t allow  site work to begin before a building permit is issued.

The deal, which has been in the works for several months, includes Vail Resorts selling the property to the timeshare developer, as well as an increase in overall density above what is allowed on the site and a decrease in parking spaces.

The developers also want to gain density by reclassifying already built and future proposed public restroom space, employee locker room space and storage spaces as listed in the Peak 7 and 8 Master Plan as skier services to new category that does not require density.

To sweeten the pot, the developer has proposed donating $25,000 to the town for preservation activities in Cucumber Gulch.

Check out the staff memo and the proposed development agreement in the town council packet for the July 24 meeting.

Breckenridge Ski Area extends season

Two extra weekends of turns — and free parking — on tap for Colorado skiers

Spring season extended at Breckenridge Ski Area. PHOTO COURTESY VAIL RESORTS/JACK AFFLECK.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY— For the first time since merging with Vail Resorts, Breckenridge Ski Area will extend the season in response to a flood of requests from loyal skiers.

The area’s high-altitude should ensure good conditions through late April. Breckenridge often stayed open into early May back in the 1980s, when old-timers can remember celebrating Cinco de Mayo with late-season turns on Peak 8.

The two-weekend bonus season will include only Peak 8 terrain, including the Imperial Express SuperChair, for  two additional weekends, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 20-22 and April 27-29, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. each day. In addition, the resort will have a special 50th season extension day ticket price of $50 for those without passes and free parking in the gondola lots. Continue reading

Ski area environmental rankings released

Peak 6 expansion a black eye for Breckenridge

How well does your favorite resort rank in environmental performance.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The controversy swirling around the proposed Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area is reflected in the latest edition of the Ski Area Environmental Report Card.

The Summit County ski area received one of the lowest grades in the state and country based on the potential impacts that the expansion would have on forests, wildlife habitat and other natural resources.

1 (A) Aspen Highlands Ski Resort 88.1%
2 (A) Aspen Mountain Ski Resort 85.7%
3 (A) Buttermilk Mountain Ski Resort 85.2%
4 (A) Snowmass Ski Resort 81.2%
5 (A) Wolf Creek Ski Area 81%
6 (B) Vail Ski Resort 74.9%
7 (B) Arapahoe Basin Ski Area 74.1%
8 (B) Loveland Ski Area 73.7%
9 (B) Telluride Ski Resort 73.3%
10 (B) Beaver Creek Resort 72.2%
11 (B) Crested Butte Mountain Resort 71.7%
12 (B) Durango Mountain Resort 70.7%
13 (B) Winter Park Resort 70.3%
14 (B) Monarch Ski and Snowboard Area 69.6%
15 (B) Steamboat Ski & Resort 69%
16 (C) Powderhorn Resort 67.1%
17 (C) Keystone Ski Resort 66.9%
18 (C) Eldora Mountain Resort 64.2%
19 (C) Copper Mountain Ski Resort 64.1%
20 (D) Breckenridge Ski Resort 50.1%

Continue reading

Breckenridge ski area celebrates 50 years of skiing

Breckenridge ski area seen from a NASA satellite, with one snow-covered trail.

Breckenridge and Vail ski resort history interconnected since the early days of the Colorado ski industry

By Bob Berwyn

Breckenridge ski area’s 50th anniversary will be marked by community celebrations and a resort marketing blitz, but skiing has deep roots in the Summit County town that predate the sport’s commercial era by at least 100 years.

The first people to slide about the local mountains on skis weren’t in it for the money. Father John Dyer moved to Breckenridge in 1862, and for Dyer, skiing was essential to his spiritual mission, as he commuted to Alma and Leadville on Norwegian snowshoes spread the word of God. Continue reading

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

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.


Opinion: Some funky moves in the Peak 6 poker game

Part of the proposed Peak 6 expansion terrain at Breckenridge.

“You got to know when to hold ‘em …

By Bob Berwyn

In the latest round of poker over a proposed ski area expansion at Breckenridge, the resort this week backed away from its clumsy bluff to withdraw from a multiparty agreement aimed at addressing some of the potential social issues associated with ski resort growth.

What struck me was that the company reversed course without any apparent reference to the well-documented earlier threats, which at least one respected member of the business community likened to blackmail.

At the same time, the resort said it wouldn’t pursue a restaurant as part of the expansion, partly as a gesture of appeasement to town business owners, and partly as a strategically timed move to show some give a few days in advance of a town-hosted open house on the expansion proposal — no doubt after the Vail Resorts bean counters frantically scribbled calculations on exactly how much revenue such a facility would generate.

The resort hopes that giving up the restaurant will be seen as a discarded ace, but in reality, it’s just a throw -away deuce of spades — another bluff, if you will. Giving up the restaurant may satisfy a few grumbling local restaurateurs, but isn’t very significant in the big picture. It’s hard to imagine skiers on the new Peak 6 terrain streaming all the way back into town for lunch; they’ll just end up back at the Peak 7 or Peak 8 base, which is where the resort wants them to begin with. Continue reading

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