Public comment sought on draft EIS
Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is one step closer to gaining final approval for a 492-acre expansion that would include a new lift in the Beavers area. The ski area plan also calls for replacing Pallavicini chairlift, removing the Norway chairlift and adding a surface lift to ferry skiers and snowboarders to the popular backside Montezuma Bowl terrain.
Last week, the U.S. Forest Service released a draft environmental study for the planned projects. The agency will take public comments on the draft EIS through March 21. More information is online at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=41664. A public meeting on the draft Eis will be held at The Keystone Center (1628 St John Rd., Dillon, CO 80435) on March 2, 2016 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
In a cover letter released with the draft study, White River National Forest Supervisor said he is currently evaluating the recreational benefits of these projects against the identified resource impacts these project may create.
The Forest Service describes the proposed action like this:
“The Proposed Action includes the following elements: incorporating the Beavers into A-Basin’s operational boundary; development of the Beavers terrain, including ski trails and a chairlift; replacing the Molly Hogan and Pallavicini chairlifts; grading around the ridge above the top terminal of the Pallavicini chairlift; construction of the Zuma Access surface lift; removal of the Norway chairlift; and the addition of a canopy tour and a challenge course. Components of the Proposed Action are detailed in Chapter 2.”
The goal of the planned projects is to improve the guest experience and skier safety at the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. The Forest Service claims the proposal wouldn’t result in additional visitors on peak days at A-Basin. Here’s how the agency summarizes the purpose and need of the projects:
- Provide the Beavers with snow safety operations and ski patrol services consistent with statements made in the 2002 WRNF Forest Plan Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS).
- Accommodate existing and future demand for high alpine and open bowl skiing while protecting and enhancing the distinctive skiing experience that A-Basin provides.
- Improve access along the 400-foot, slightly uphill catwalk from Lenawee Mountain chairlift to Montezuma Bowl.
- Upgrade and remove chairlifts, as needed.
- Provide adventure-based multi-season experiences that require little specialized knowledge,
skills, equipment or familiarity with the mountain environment.
In a summary of resource issues identified in the draft study, the Forest Service included potential changes to the overall recreational experience at A-Basin, as well as potential “measurable increases in daily/seasonal visitation, thereby affecting traffic on Highway 6 and parking at A-Basin.” Construction of the new Beavers-are chairlift could also affect the Scenic Integrity Objective of the A-Basin permit area.
Based on federal policy guidance, the White River National Forest chose not to address potential climate impacts from the proposal. According to the Forest Service, “the effects of the Proposed Action cannot be meaningfully evaluated under current science, modeling, and policies. Therefore, it is not possible to discern significant effects on climate change as a result of implementing the Proposed Action.”