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Ski industry supports roadless protection

Colorado’s ski industry wants the vast majority of roadless lands in the state’s national forests preserved, but it also wants the roadless designation removed when it overlaps existing ski area permit boundaries.Colorado Ski Country USA, a trade association for the state’s 25 ski areas, wants 8,000 acres removed from the U.S. Forest Service’s inventoried roadless areas. Alan Henceroth, an executive at Arapahoe Basin and a spokesman for Colorado Ski Country, formalized the request to the Roadless Areas Review Task Force at a meeting Wednesday in Glenwood Springs.That task force is charged with advising Gov. Bill Owens on how the state’s roadless lands should be managed. Owens will submit a final request to the federal government before the end of the year. Henceroth was quick to note that the ski industry supports roadless protection for nearly all of the 4.43 million inventoried roadless lands in Colorado. The 8,000 acres it wants removed from the inventory represent less than two-tenths of 1 percent of all roadless lands in the state, he said.Eleven ski areas in the state have designated roadless lands within their boundaries, including Snowmass, Aspen Mountain and Buttermilk, Henceroth said. The roadless designation doesn’t prohibit skiing. Trails can be cut on roadless land as long as environmental studies show there will be no adverse impacts, according to Forest Service regulations.But the use of roadless lands can pose public relations headaches for ski areas. Henceroth said the roadless designation means different things to different people. Some members of the public might oppose using those lands for skiing even though the Forest Service allows it.He said removing the roadless designation from within ski area permit boundaries would “eliminate significant and unnecessary controversy that exists today.”The Aspen Skiing Co. is in the thick of some of that controversy. It wants to add skiing terrain on Burnt Mountain, which is already within its ski area permit boundary. The addition requires Forest Service approval. A coalition of environmentalists and backcountry skiers opposes the addition. One of its arguments is it would harm roadless lands.The state task force didn’t indicate Wednesday night whether it would honor Colorado Ski Country’s request in its recommendations.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is scondon@aspentimes.com


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