Aspen Skiing Co. wants to turn a larger part of the area around the lower Elk Camp chairlift terminal into an evening playground for winter tourists at Snowmass, according to an application submitted to the U.S. Forest Service.
Skico recently submitted a plan to create a four-lane, 500-foot long tubing area on Lower Bear Bottom trail at Elk Camp for the winter of 2014-15. A one-lane, 220-foot long lane existed last winter.
To accommodate the tubing park, Skico wants to remove trees from 3.2 acres, install a 500-foot conveyor chairlift, regrade 2.5 acres of landscape and add snowmaking, according to a summary letter released by the Forest Service on Friday.
Skico also would replace temporary lightning with 15 permanent lighting poles, its application said.
Skico also wants to offer snowcat tours in 2014-15 that would launch from Elk Camp Restaurant, head to the top of Elk Camp, then return to the gondola.
“The tour will have a few designated stops where guests will disembark the snowcat for refreshments and to enjoy the quiet night-time serenity of the upper mountain,” Skico’s application said.
Skico initially sought but eventually withdrew a request for a “Kids Snowmobile Adventure” on a special course in the Elk Camp Meadows terrain. Skico wanted to use “mini-snowmobiles that have a top speed less than 15 mph,” according to its application.
After conferring with Forest Service officials about the proposal and discussing the review process, Skico removed that part of the request, according to Matt Ehrman, forest planner and acting winter sports administrator in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.
Skico was allowed to offer evening activities at Elk Camp last winter on a trial basis. As part of its Ullr Nights held on Fridays from December through March, it was allowed to extend the hours of the Elk Camp Gondola and Elk Camp Restaurant to 9:30 p.m. Normal closing time was 5:30 p.m.
In addition to the one tubing lane, Skico offered a sledding hill, ice-skating, snow bike tours and guided snowshoe tours as well as indoor music.
Skico’s application said there is clear-cut need for the expanded winter activities.
“There is a need for this project proposal because our guests have, in the past, made requests for afterhours activity opportunities,” the application said. “The need for this activity also exists to ensure that ASC and the Snowmass Resort Community maintain a competitive edge within the industry with regard to winter recreation.”
The Forest Service will accept public comment until Dec. 2 as part of its environmental review.
The agency also is accepting comments over the same period on Skico’s plan to build new summer mountain biking trails and change the alignment of existing trails on Elk Camp.
Skico wants to build a new beginners’ trail and Elk Camp Meadows Skills Center as well as reroute the Easy Rider and Vapor trails.
Written comments on both projects should be sent to Matt Ehrman, Forest Planner, Aspen Sopris Ranger District, 620 Main St., Carbondale, CO 81623. Comment sent via email should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments must include name, address, telephone numbers and if an organization is being represented. It should specify if the comments are on the Snowmass Winter Evening Activities or Snowmass Bike Trails. It should specify what issues should be considered and supporting facts.
More information about the bike trails can be found at Snowmass New/Realigned Mountain Bike Trails Project webpage: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=43045.
More on the expanded winter activities can be found at: http://www.fs.fed.us/nepa/fs-usda-pop.php/?project=43048.