Breckenridge group brainstorms on ski expansion issues, solutions
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. ” The Breckenridge task force assembled to tackle community problems stemming from ski-area growth recently came up with a “blue sky” laundry list of solutions, ranging from capacity limits to a town-resort agreement that would cap expansion after Peak 6.
The group started meeting after Breckenridge Ski Area’s plan to add a new lift and several hundred acres of terrain on Peak 6 triggered a small avalanche of critical comments last year.
After considering feedback from the public, Breckenridge chief operating officer Lucy Kay decided to slow the expansion process and convene a stakeholder group that includes the U.S. Forest Service, town and county officials, as well as citizens representing the Breckenridge business community and other interests.
Recognizing that issues like parking, housing and congestion are not solely spurred by the Peak 6 proposal, the group hopes to find some long-term ways to allow ski-area growth while preserving community values.
“The take-away message so far is that some of these significant impacts are not because of Peak 6 in and of itself,” said Kay, describing the gist of the task force proceeding so far. “We’ve made a first pass on the issues and we’re working through the data and facts,” she said. The Peak 6 process could be a catalyst for long-term solutions to some of these community issues.
Dave Rossi, representing the Breckenridge Town Council, said that, as the group goes round and round, he’s starting to get a been-there, done-that Groundhog Day feeling, referencing the popular Bill Murray comedy.
“The whole purpose of this was to just put all the ideas out there, not to argue the viability of any of these ideas,” said Rossi, representing the town council on the task force.
“We’re not at the point where Vail has decided what they will agree to,” Rossi said, adding that the idea of an expansion cap did seem like it might be part of the solution.
The group plans to host an open house to present its findings, although a date has not yet been set.
Skier numbers at Breckenridge are a question mark for some task-force members, who wanted to see a breakdown of skier visits and acres by terrain type. Looking at the numbers may help make the case for an expansion, but it doesn’t help in defining the relative costs and benefits, according to citizen comments made at the Dec. 15 meeting.
Other items on the list include increases in employee housing to cover the 16 to 30 new workers needed for the expansion; an eight percent increase in parking, as well as previously discussed options like improving existing resort infrastructure to meet the demand and changing the timing of the Peak 6 project.
Yet another trial balloon was the idea of creating a new funding mechanism with a work force, or ski area, tax that would give the resort an incentive to reduce its overall impacts on housing, social services, transportation and parking.
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U.S. Forest Service ready to make happy campers with the opening of facilities in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District.