White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and Dillon District Ranger Jan Cutts will join interested citizens for an April 8 tour of the Peak 6 area
SUMMIT COUNTY — White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams and Dillon District Ranger Jan Cutts will lead an April 8 site visit at Breckenridge Ski Area to the proposed Peak 6 expansion area, where the resort wants to add a new lift and several hundred acres of new terrain to alleviate crowding.
According to a press release from the Forest Service, the site visit will accommodate the skiing and non-skiing public, with the intent of presenting some details on the plan and to allow citizens to ask questions. For details on the logistics, call snow ranger Shelly Grail at (970) 262-3484 or send her an e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Grail said the main purpose of the site visit is to let people know about some of the changes to the proposal since it was first released, including a relocation of the bottom terminal and the elimination of a road from the existing Independence Chair on Peak 7 to the new Peak 6 terrain pod. Grail said the Forest Service hopes to spend about an hour at the site and make it up to treeline to look at some of the timber in the proposed expansion area.
Listen to a recording of a Breckenridge Town Council discussion on the Peak 6 plan here:
The proposed expansion is currently in a review phase, as a private contractor — with guidance from the Forest Service — is preparing a draft environmental study that will examine the relative impacts of several different scenarios for the expansion. In its last official statement on the plan, the Forest Service described a scaled-back version of the original proposal, with a slightly shorter lift and less trail clearing. Here’s a link to the USFS release on the Peak 6 “lite” plan from June 2010. And this link goes to a story with a few more details. Keep in mind, these are both nearly a year old.
Since the draft environmental Impact Statement hasn’t been released yet, discussions during the site visit will be limited to a description of the proposal and the proposed time table for the release of the draft study. Opportunities for the public to review and provide comment on the preliminary plan will be announced later.
The expansion plan has triggered a classic Summit County showdown. Some residents are adamantly opposed to the plan, claiming it will lead to even more congestion on the slopes and in town when the resort trumpets the new “peak” in its marketing blurbs. This time around, the face-off has a new, Web 2.o, as supporters and opponents of the plan duel on Facebook. Click here to read about the social media battle.
The initial proposal spurred an outpouring of public comments during the scoping phase, as many residents expressed concern about impacts to housing, parking, traffic and more. Some of those issues were addressed — but only partially at best — by a community task force that met and developed a multi-party agreement outlining some of the concerns. But that memorandum of understanding is long on promises and short on details. Basically, there are still more questions than answers as outlined in this commentary.
Click here to read what the Breckenridge council had to say about the MOU.
Other issues that have come up include the proposed amount of trail clear-cutting, equal to about 60 football fields worth of healthy subalpine spruce and fir forest. Some critics question whether it’s wise to cut healthy trees while surrounding lodgepole pine forests are dying en masse. Impacts to endangered lynx using the forest nearby are also a concern. Click here to read more about how the federal agencies will consider the wildlife impacts.
Finally, some local skiers say the resort could better alleviate crowding by upgrading lifts and terrain within the existing resort footprint with improvements to 6 chair and other infill projects.
The resort and Forest Service say the Peak 6 terrain will help address the demand for more intermediate and more advanced hike-to terrain at Breckenridge. The official line is that the expansion won’t attract new skiers to the resort, but will serve to address the existing demand, a claim that critics hotly dispute.
Supporters in the community say the expansion will be an economic shot in the arm, and that the new terrain will add to Breckenridge’s appeal. The resort has been looking at ways to mitigate impacts to wildlife by controlling skier traffic in sensitive areas, but those measures have been tried in other areas, notably Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, with little success.