Skico reworking its Burnt Mountain plan
The Aspen Skiing Co. is studying whether it can alter its plan to add skiing on Burnt Mountain in a way that could secure U.S. Forest Service approval.The Skico is working with the local Forest Service staff to see if it could relocate a traverse from Burnt Mountain into Snowmass Ski Area to avoid a sliver of roadless land, according to representatives of the company and the agency. The Forest Service ruled earlier this year that the project couldn’t proceed as proposed without further study on the effects on roadless areas.The Skico went back to the drawing board to see if it could avoid the roadless areas on Burnt Mountain. About 75 acres with the official roadless designation overlap Snowmass Ski Area’s permit boundary, according to officials with the White River National Forest.A proposed traverse, also known as a catwalk, on Burnt Mountain crosses about 1,300 feet of roadless area. The ski area needs that traverse to move skiers and riders from Burnt Mountain, which has no chairlifts, into the Two Creeks section of Snowmass.The Skico is studying the terrain to see whether the traverse can go elsewhere, off roadless land, according to Kristi Ponozzo, a spokeswoman for the White River National Forest. Skico spokesman Jeff Hanle confirmed the company’s direction.”I think we’re in the exploratory stage,” Hanle said. The ease or difficulty of relocating that traverse will determine if the company pursues the project this summer and expands skiing on Burnt Mountain for next season, he said.The Skico wants to add trails east of the existing Long Shot run in mostly gentle terrain covered with trees. Company officials said that would add to the “semi-backcountry experience” many customers covet.The Aspen-Sopris District of the White River National Forest performed an environmental assessment on the proposal and issued a decision to allow the addition. An environmental group called The Ark Initiative appealed on grounds that the project could harm roadless areas.The Forest Service’s regional office in Denver ruled partially in favor of the environmental group on May 22. It said the Skico could not work in the Burnt Mountain roadless area without further study. Trail development that doesn’t affect the roadless lands was allowed to proceed.Ponozzo said Skico officials have informed the Forest Service the company hopes to implement the project this summer.
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