De-constructing the jargon
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.
MEMO: Breckenridge Ski Resort (BSR) has fluctuated between the most- and second-most visited resort in the U.S. over the past decade making it consistently one of the busiest mountain resorts in North America. Historically, peak visitation days put pressure on the existing terrain and infrastructure capacities.
BB: Yes, trails and lifts areas are busy on holidays and during spring break. Breckenridge is not unique in that regard. Somebody needs to provide a lucid explanation of how Peak 6 would address that. Why and how would the busy areas become less busy from a new terrain pod in a remote part of the resort? All those people skiing the new area still have to come back to the existing base areas at some point, and resorts historically close the remote parts of the mountain earlier to give patrollers a chance to sweep. That means those people would be funneled back to the core areas right during those peak times when it’s already busiest.
As visitation increases, the quality of the recreational experience is impacted. High trail densities and long lift lines are associated with three periods: (1) peak days; (2) average days during key egress periods; and (3) new snow days in areas of off-piste, lift-served terrain.
BB: People have to wait longer in the lift lines and some intermediate and beginner trails are crowded, especially around lunch, when people are headed for base-area restaurants, and at the end of the day, when people are headed back to their condos.
Question: How is building a new lift and trails in a remote part of the ski area going to help reduce crowding on the ski-home trails at the end of the day? If anything, putting more people on the mountain will lead to more crowding at those times, in those areas.
Question: What, exactly, is off-piste, lift-served terrain? Are they talking about un-groomed runs? If so, how does that figure into this discussion? And yes, powder-hungry skiers and riders flock to find freshies when there’s new snow, no big surprise there.
To begin to mitigate these issues and improve the guest experience, Breckenridge has identified the need for the following needs:
• Better accommodation of current daily visitation levels;
• Reduced skier/rider congestion on BSR’s existing Intermediate and Advanced
intermediate terrain network and associated lifts;
• Reduced waiting time for lifts at BSR; • Efficient dispersal of Intermediate and Advanced Intermediate skiers/riders across the
entire skiable terrain network;
• Additional lift-served terrain to accommodate the existing terrain distribution deficit;
• Additional hike-to access servicing advanced ability levels
BB: Wow, “the existing terrain distribution deficit” — I had to think about that one for a while. I think they’re trying to imply that Breckenridge has a shortage of intermediate terrain, based on the resort’s skier demographic. Can’t argue with that, but I would be asking for some solid evidence to support the claim that the new Peak 6 pod will address that issue.
To give them the benefit of the doubt, the Montezuma Bowl expansion did help disperse skiers across the mountain at A-Basin and took some of the pressure off Pali. It could be that the Peak 6 terrain could do something similar, but the scope of the two projects is quite different. Montezuma Bowl added a significant amount of new terrain as compared to the existing area. The proposed Peak 6 terrain is only a small percentage as compared to the terrain that’s already been developed at Breckenridge.
In 2007, BSR proposed an expansion to Peak 6 on National Forest Lands of the White River National Forest in the Ten Mile Range. Peak 6 meets these needs by providing additional terrain to serve the existing levels of visitation. This project is not intended or designed to increase visitation above the levels currently projected. Additionally, as shown on the attached map, Peak 6 adds ski terrain and basic skier service facilities, and does not contemplate or allow for any base area development.
BB: To me, the repetition of these phrases is somewhat nauseating and offensive. I’m intentionally using strong language, because it’s completely clear that, if the Peak 6 project is approved, the resort will market the hell out of the new terrain, and whether they intend it or not, it WILL lead to an increase in skier visits above any increase that might occur without the expansion.
Everyone involved in this discussion would be better served if there was up-front acknowledgment that the expansion will increase skier visits; then to try and quantify that increase and to deal with the consequences of it. In fact, the oft-discussed MOU between the town, county and resort all but implies that there will be an increase in skier visits, and subsequently demand for parking and other services.
• The proposed expansion to Peak 6 was contemplated in the White River National Forest Plan and includes terrain already in the BSR special use permit boundary.
• Peak 6 would make available an additional 450 acres of skiable terrain – 70 acres of cleared (cut) intermediate ski trails with an additional 380 acres of high alpine (above timberline) intermediate (79%)/expert (21%) terrain.
• One detachable 6 person chairlift 8200’ long with a vertical rise of 1670’ and a mid- load station 2400’ up the line so guests can re-circulate the terrain pod without going back to Peak 7.
• Base of lift would be on Peak 7 and accessible by the Colorado, Rocky Mountain or Independence SuperChairs at the confluence of Monte Cristo and Angel’s Rest trails.
• Lift alignment was modified from the original proposal to improve access and to lessen potential impacts to the environment.
• Proposed Ski Patrol/warming hut at top of lift and satellite food/beverage facility at mid-load.
• Construction of a service road with utilities from existing Peak 7 road down 1000’ from Wirepatch across to Angel’s Rest to base of proposed lift.
• One small (30’ wide) skiway would be constructed between Pioneer and Wirepatch to provide access from the Colorado and Rocky Mountain Superchairs without adding guests to the base of Peak 7. The service road would serve as a connecting skiway between Wirepatch and Lincoln Meadows.
• The proposal includes backcountry access gates for guests looking to leave the developed ski area into Peaks 5 and beyond.
BB: At least this section of the memo is pretty clear, and represents a scaled-back version of the original plan, with only 70 acres of clear-cutting. The mid-load station sounds like a good idea for people who want to stay in the Alpine zone and new backcountry access gates to the heart of the Tenmile Range between Frisco and Breckenridge would be a good thing.