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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

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Breckenridge Town Council weighs Peak 6 pros and cons

Citizens learn about the proposed Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion during a mid-July site visit.

Ski area expansion hearing fills town hall

By Bob Berwyn

BRECKENRIDGE — The proposed Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Area is turning into a high country version of Goldilocks, with the new lift and trails being either too big, too small or just right, depending on who you listen to.

For White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams, who started a town council session on Peak 6 with a brief outline of the plan, the resort’s proposal to add 550 acres and a six-seat lift best meets the need to disperse crowds across the busy ski area — that’s why he chose it as the preferred alternative mid-way through an exhaustive environmental review process.

Fitzwilliams intro:

Public comment:

Continue reading

Breckenridge: Forest Service cancels Peak 6 site visit

A draft map shows one possible configuration of lifts and trail on Peak 6 at Breckenridge Ski Area.

Looming government shutdown forces agency to rethink operations

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A potential government shutdown resulting from ideological budget bickering in Washington, D.C. is already having impacts locally, as U.S. Forest Service rangers said they are canceling a planned April 8 field visit to the proposed Peak 6 ski area expansion terrain.

In an email sent out Thursday evening, snow ranger Shelly Grail said Forest Service officials need to focus on preparing the national forest for a potential government shutdown.

“We recognize that an official decision to shut down government operations has not happened as of this evening, however, we’ve made the decision to cancel the field visit to give us sufficient time to notify people who are traveling in from out of town,” Grail said. Continue reading

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

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 council approves Peak 6 deal

An early version of a map showing plans for new ski terrain on Peak 6.

Agreement addresses parking, traffic and housing impacts of ski area expansion, which is still under Forest Service review

By Bob Berwyn

BRECKENRIDGE — After more than a year of work by a collaborative community task force, the Breckenridge Town Council this week unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding with Breckenridge Ski Resort aimed at addressing social and socio-economic impacts of a proposed ski area expansion. Click here to read the full text of the agreement.

The agreement is intended to avoid negative impacts to the local employee housing market, the availability of health and human services, and parking and transportation infrastructure — all so-called quality of life issues that were identified in an outpouring of public comments when the resort first proposed the expansion a couple of year ago. Continue reading

Memo and Text of Breckenridge Peak 6 expansion MOU

Ski area growth impacts at issue in deal with ski area

Breckenridge, Colorado.

Editor’s note: Following are documents from the Breckenridge Town Council, including the draft language of an MOU intended to find agreement between Breckenridge, Summit County and Breckenridge Ski Resort on how to address impacts from ski area growth and expansion. Continue reading

Breckenridge: Peak 6 stakeholders strive for consensus

Peak 6 proposal at Breckenridge spurs continued discussions

A proposal to add new lift-served skiing on Peak 6 at Breckenridge has triggered in-depth discussions about how to address various impacts associated with increased resort development.

Interesting comment thread on this story over at TGR.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Some of the players have changed, but the issues remain the same for a community group charged with addressing the socio-economic impacts of a proposal to increase the capacity of Breckenridge Ski Area by 8 percent with a new lift and trails on Peak 6.

The Breckenridge Town Council and the Summit County commissioners met in a joint work session Tuesday to review the work of a task force that convened more than a year ago to tackle those questions. Based on the discussion, the stakeholders are still far apart when it comes to addressing some of the most critical concerns.

Click here to read a copy of the working document used by the stakeholders.

“I feel like I went to a gang fight and forgot my gang,” Breckenridge council member Jeffrey Bergeron quipped after the meeting, referring to some of the apparent divisions among the elected public servants. Continue reading

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