Forest Service OKs expansion for Keystone | AspenTimes.com

Forest Service OKs expansion for Keystone

Aspen Times writer

SUMMIT COUNTY – The U.S. Forest Service gave final approval for expanded snowcat and hike-to skiing on 278 acres of mostly above treeline terrain in the upper reaches of Jones Gulch this week.The new area, which the resort tabbed Independence Bowl, will offer steeper, north-facing terrain for Keystone’s popular cat-skiing operation. The new bowl is in an area allocated to ski area use under the 2002 White River National Forest plan.”There’s a demand for in-bounds ‘backcountry-light’ skiing and riding, which is why we’ve been considering the expansion of hike-to and snowcat skiing and riding to the chutes and steeper pitches of Independence Bowl for the past few years,” said Chuck Tolton, Keystone’s director of mountain operations.Keystone started offering snowcat tours in the 2003-04 season to introduce advanced skiers and riders to the untracked terrain of Bergman and Erickson bowls, guided by ski patrollers who offer an introductory talk on avalanche awareness.”The expansion into Independence Bowl is the result of work started years ago with the opening of Bergman and Erickson bowls, and we’ve since been building on the positive guest response to more challenging terrain,” Tolton explained. “It’s an exciting step for Keystone.”Keystone is now claiming more than 3,000 acres of skiable terrain, more than any other resort in Summit County. Opening day is set for Nov. 10, and guided snowcat tours will begin as soon as conditions permit, likely sometime in January. Reservations are required; more information is available by calling (800) 468-5004.The Forest Service decision and documents related to the approval of the expansion are available at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/projects/.

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