Draft EA for High Alpine lift at Snowmass available for public comment

Staff report

The White River National Forest has released a draft environmental assessment for replacement and realignment of the High Alpine chairlift and other winter recreation enhancements at Snowmass Ski Area. The agency will open public comment on the proposal.

In addition to the new chairlift, Aspen Skiing Co. proposed additional snowmaking coverage and trail and glading projects. Upgrades to Gwyn’s High Alpine restaurant also are eyed.

Skico wants to replace the slow, old double chair with a high-speed detachable quad lift, Skico COO David Perry said Wednesday. The lift capacity would remain at about 1,200 passengers per hour by spacing out the chairs, he said. The plan is to shorten the ride without dumping more skiers and snowboarders into the High Alpine pod of terrain.

The new lift would be realigned so the lower terminal is farther downhill and shifted to the west. The upper terminal would be positioned slightly higher on the slope and slightly to the west.

Skico officials said previously the realignment would help make Snowmass more skier friendly. It will make the traverse to Upper Green Cabin trail easier. That is a popular intermediate trail that currently requires a tiring, flat traverse. The realigned lift would also catch skiers coming off the Cirque terrain and allow them to access Hanging Valley Wall terrain with one ride. The new lift will “not really change the access into Hanging Valley Wall,” Perry said.

Written comments pertinent to the draft environmental assessment will be accepted by the White River National Forest for 30 calendar days following publication of notice in the Glenwood Springs Post Independent. The publication date in the newspaper of record is the exclusive means for calculating the comment period. Comments should include: 1. Name, address, telephone number, and organization represented (if any), 2. Reference the “Snowmass Ski Trail Enhancements and High Alpine Lift Replacement Environmental Assessment,” and 3. List specific facts, concerns, or issues that warrant further consideration.