Summit County: Keystone to redevelop Summit House

The summit of Dercum Mountain as seen by Google Earth.

Proposal submitted to Forest Service includes lift and trail upgrades to ease congestion around the top of Dercum Mountain

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Keystone Resort has submitted a proposal to the U.S. Forest Service for some major upgrades at the summit of Dercum Mountain, including a complete replacement of the existing Summit House with a new 20,000 to 30,000 square-foot facility. The Summit House plan is part of a new master for Keystone, recently posted online at the White River National Forest website.

The Forest Service hasn’t yet formally accepted the proposal, but has tentatively scheduled the start of public scoping sometime this summer, said Dillon District winter sports ranger Shelly Grail.

Scoping is the first step in the formal public environmental analysis that leads to a formulation of alternatives, disclosure of potential effects to the environment and ultimately a decision by the forest supervisor.

Skiers and riders will probably be able to enjoy the historical feel of the existing mountain-top lodge — with all its nooks, crannies and crow’s nest lookouts — for a couple of more winters, depending on the timing of the review and approval process and the subsequent implementation by Vail Resorts, Grail said.

Along with the replacement of the Summit House, Keystone is proposing:

  • Improvements to the Adventure Point area;
  • Creation of family adventure zones;
  • Developing trail sections into quality, educational, skiing/riding features to engage children of all ages and a variety of ability levels;
  • Snowmaking system Improvements;
  • Trail widening, by-pass trails and grading projects intended to widen specific areas of existing trails and remove tree islands in some locations to improve skier circulation;
  • Improvements to Dercum Mt, Mt Bike Trail System by dividing trails into distinct ability levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and developing more beginner and advanced trails;
  • Lift improvements, including installation of three surface “carpet” lifts to service beginner ski terrain at the Summit of Dercum Mountain,  at the mid-station of the River Run Gondola and the top of Peru Express.

Rebuilding the Summit House could offer some real opportunities for environmental benefits in terms of sustainability, as well as offering the resort a chance to enhance revenue from operations both winter and summer.

The new lodge would be built according to the Forest Service Built Environment Image Guide, with a focus on sustainability and fitting the landscape. In a letter introducing the guide, Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell acknowledged that built facilities are resource hogs, both in the construction and operations phase.

“When we build facilities to respect the natural systems in which they reside, be durable, and emphasize efficiency in energy and materials consumption, we not only use less ourselves, but send a message to all about what we value and what everyone can do to conserve resources.”

“These projects focus on improvements on Dercum Mountain and align with the 2009 Keystone Master Development Plan (MDP),” Keystone general manager John Buhler wrote in his proposal letter to the Forest Service. “Keystone’s intent is to integrate future development projects, identified within the (master plan), with its brand focus as a family resort.”

In a release, the resort said some of the improvements could be implemented as early as next year, depending on the Forest Service and public review and approval process.

According to the master development plan, the new Summit House could consist of two separate buildings, with one housing day and evening food service facilities, ski patrol, restrooms, ski school and banquet and wedding facilities. A separate building could accommodate tickets sales and other visitor services.

The Keystone master plan is not available online yet, but at the request of Summit Voice, the agency is working to get the document uploaded to the White River National Forest website.


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