Finding New Paths with the Lost Forest
New on-mountain adventure center is game-changer at Snowmass, brings host of summertime activities to the 50-year-old ski area
Steve Sewell believes the Lost Forest will be a game-changer for summertime in Snowmass.
“It will offer interesting and fun activities for families,” the mountain manager said, “and I think it’s going to give people a reason to stay in Snowmass a couple more days.”
Consider Sewell a reliable source when it comes to Snowmass and its affairs on the hill – he started working on the Snowmass ski patrol in 1977 and has been the mountain manager since 2006.
In case you haven’t been following or this is your first time here – in which case, welcome – Aspen Skiing Co. in June 2017 started building a $10 million, on-mountain adventure center at Snowmass Ski Area.
With an extensive plan that called for amenities such as an alpine coaster, zip-line, ropes course, climbing wall and more than 15 miles of new bike trails, Skico wasted no time in realizing its dreams of building an adventure park at Snowmass.
The U.S. Forest Service granted the skiing company final project approval June 20, 2017, and construction started the next day, Skico director of business development Peter Santini said.
The Lost Forest is based just up the gondola at the Elk Camp area, which Skico hopes will serve as a social hub in the summer months.
Skico debuted its 5,700-foot “Breathtaker Coaster” – the only part of the Lost Forest open year-round – in time to ring in the ski area’s 50th anniversary.
Sewell said the alpine coaster, which opened mid-December, was well received by locals and visitors through the winter.
“It was an overwhelming success,” Sewell said. “Everybody loved it. It was a really good winter activity.”
Along with the coaster, Skico completed about 7.5 miles of the total 15.1 miles of added bike trails.
This summer, it will knock out the remaining 7.6 miles of new trails along the Elk Camp side of the mountain and “open those just as soon as we complete the trail and it’s ready to ride,” Sewell said.
For Skico and White River National Forest offi-cials, the Lost Forest has been a long time coming.
Snowmass was the fifth ski resort in the White River National Forest to pursue a summer recreational plan since Congress passed the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act in 2011.
But the conversation was spurred at least a decade ago, according to Roger Poirier, a mountain sports program manager at the White River National Forest.
Poirier recalled when Vail Resorts submitted an application for an alpine coaster at Vail Ski Resort in 2006 or 2007.
“At that time, we didn’t have any direction to make a decision,” Poirier said. “The White River National Forest didn’t have direction that spoke to these types of activities.”
White River National Forest representatives spent the next few years crafting a policy and determining what would and would not be appropriate on its lands.
The key, according to Poirier, “is really just to try to find the right blend of activities for each resort that still maintain a National Forest setting.”
Vail, Breckenridge, Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin are the other ski areas under the White River National Forest, which hosts more visitors for recreation (more than 10 million annually) than any other national forest in the country, to add summer attractions to their resorts.
“We went from 0 to 60 at Vail and Breckenridge, so we’ve learned a lot of things and been able to apply some of those lessons learned to Snowmass,” Poirier said. “We’re really excited about what Snowmass is looking to do, and we’re up there a lot this summer making sure the construction is going well.”
For tickets and more information on Snowmass’ Lost Forest, www.aspensnowmass.com/plan-your-stay/lost-forest
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