Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge takes step forward | AspenTimes.com

Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge takes step forward

Caddie Nath
Summit Daily News
Aspen, CO Colorado

BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. – Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 6 expansion plan took another leap toward approval Friday when the U.S. Forest Service released a long-awaited draft environmental impact statement (EIS), naming the proposal for 550 acres of new terrain the preferred alternative for the project.

“From the very beginning the proposed action was designed to minimize impacts to soil, watersheds, wildlife and scenic landscape,” Forest Service supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said. “And I think with this alternative we’re going to eventually improve the experience on the mountain.”

The alternative includes 550 new acres of lift-served and hike-to terrain on Peak 6 within the ski area boundaries, the installation of a six-person detachable lift based on Peak 7 with a mid-point station on Peak 6, as well as the construction of a warming hut at the top of the mountain and a 150-seat guest building with a restaurant at the lift mid-point.

The expansion would allow Breckenridge to accommodate an additional 1,100 skiers per day.

The proposal was identified as the best option in the draft EIS based on the resort’s stated need for increased terrain to help reduce lift lines and trail crowding, public input and natural resource concerns, Fitzwilliams said.

Breckenridge representatives said they are happy to see the proposal advance a step.

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“We are very pleased to have reached this point in the review process,” Breckenridge chief operating officer Pat Campbell said. “We will be reviewing the document ourselves in the upcoming days to fully understand the (Forest Service) analysis. We are excited to see the approval process move forward because we firmly believe the proposed Peak 6 expansion will greatly enhance the recreational experience for our guests.”

The proposal for expansion has not been warmly received by everyone in the community. The draft EIS concludes a two-and-a-half year negotiation process among the ski resort, the Forest Service, local governments and residents.

An initial ski resort proposal for the expansion drew a public outcry over the potential impacts to wildlife, the environment and local quality of life. In response, local governments and the Forest Service formed a task force to investigate the possible social consequences while the EIS process was charged with investigating environmental repercussions.

The release of the draft EIS opens a 45-day public comment period. Forest Service officials said public feedback will be incorporated into the final EIS.

A final decision could be delivered by early next year, Fitzwilliams said.

The draft EIS also includes a no-action alternative and a third option that would create approximately 326 acres of new terrain on the peaks that are already developed, with one new lift and 12 new trails.

Breckenridge is consistently ranked one of the most visited ski resorts in North America, often exceeding its comfortable capacity on peak days.

“We feel like we really need this project to accommodate the visitation,” Campbell said. “(Peak 6 terrain) will disperse people farther out from the core of the mountain.”

Breckenridge can currently accommodate nearly 15,000 skiers and snowboarders per day comfortably, but on busy days the resort might see as many as 20,000 skiers. The Peak 6 expansion would increase the resort’s comfortable carrying capacity to more than 16,000 skiers per day, according to the draft EIS.

The preferred alternative consists of seven new groomed trails, totaling about 68 acres, 143 acres of hike-to terrain and approximately 339 acres of lift-served above-treeline terrain, including 104 acres accessed via the existing Imperial Express SuperChair as a result of changing the ski area boundaries.

The expansion would add 182 acres of intermediate terrain, 62 advanced-intermediate acres and 163 acres of expert skiing.

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