Skiers see pros and cons of High Alpine lift replacement | AspenTimes.com

Skiers see pros and cons of High Alpine lift replacement

Aspen Skiing Co. wants to replace the High Alpine lift, an old, fixed-grip double chairlift, with a detachable, high-speed quad. The lift would also be realigned with both the lower and upper terminals shifted west of their current positions. Twelve comments were submitted in September as part of the Forest Service review of the proposal.

Some skiers heralded the proposed replacement of the High Alpine chairlift at Snowmass as an overdue improvement that will boost riding comfort and make some terrain more accessible.

Other skiers blasted it as a move that's bad for the environment and one that would ruin some good existing treelines.

Twelve comments were submitted as part of the U.S. Forest Service review of the proposal. The Forest Service will respond to the ones it considers relevant as part of the review.

Aspen Skiing Co. wants to replace the ancient, fixed-grip, double chairlift with a detachable, high-speed quad. The lift also would be realigned. Both the lower and upper terminals would be shifted west of their current positions.

“Why can’t the existing lift line be utilized therefore decreasing the overall impact on the environment?”


— Andy Barber, Snowmass Village

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The lower terminal would be repositioned west and downslope of High Alpine Restaurant. The terminal would be on Green Cabin Trail.

The upper terminal would be relocated slightly higher so it would be easier for skiers and snowboarders to traverse to the top of Upper Green Cabin.

The realignment would require Skico to thin trees along the new lift line, including the trees west of Reidar's trail.

The Forest Service accepted comments about the proposal in September.

"It's about time the High Alpine chairlift is replaced and realigned," Snowmass Village resident Linnette Storms wrote to the agency. "The chair has knocked me to the ground, another time has ripped off my left ski, twisted my knee and cuts off the circulation in my legs such that I have to ski most of the way down with numb feet. Not a safe or pleasant scenario."

But other people who submitted comments fear the lift replacement and realignment will have a detrimental effect on existing conditions. Basalt-area resident Denise Handrich wrote the project "will ruin the skiing in Reidar's trees."

"That area is great because it is perfectly gladed and has a wild feel," she wrote. "Cutting a swatch through it and thinning more trees will take away those solitary, beautiful moments."

Handrich said the pockets of trees at Snowmass are great habitats and hiding places for a variety of wildlife. Too many trees will be lost if the project is approved, she said.

"Some of us love to ski unmanicured, real terrain," Handrich wrote. "Snowmass is big enough to provide these different types of experiences, and I hope the Forest Service will protect it for me and the wildlife."

The 12 comments submitted were evenly divided, with five in favor, five opposed and one stating pros and cons of the proposal. The town of Snowmass Village submitted a comment neither in favor nor opposed to the project, but noting that a town review of the project is required, as well.

Skico's application for the project said the new chairlift won't dump additional skiers and snowboarders onto the High Alpine section of the ski area or in Hanging Valley Wall, which require a short hike from the top of the chairlift. Rich Burkley, Skico's vice president of mountain operations, previously said that the chairs of the new lift will be spaced so that capacity doesn't change even though the ride time is reduced.

The Forest Service is conducting a specific type of study called an environmental assessment on the project. A decision is anticipated in May 2015. If the project is approved, Burkley previously said it would be built in summer 2016.

scondon@aspentimes.com

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

“Why can’t the existing lift line be utilized therefore decreasing the overall impact on the environment?”

— Andy Barber, Snowmass Village

“Replacing the lift is going to degrade the local ecosystem and create a more developed, less natural experience for visitors to these forest lands. I believe that this project is contrary to the Forest Service’s charter that requires stewardship and protection of our natural areas.”

— Mark Billingsley, Lazy Glen

“On cold, windy days the chair is almost empty as it’s very painful to go through a long, SLOW lift on hard seats without a foot rest and the wind threatening to throw you off.”

— Cristine and Tim Lindenfelser, Snowmass Village

“I feel that this proposal for a quad on High Alpine will take some of the mystique out of the area and leave us searching for new challenges and away from the crowds that will shorten our powder runs in this area.”

— Sharon Troyer, Glenwood Springs

“The current High Alpine lift is very uncomfortable to ride and often snatches my back when I get on it. Also, the realignment would be very beneficial as accessing Upper Green Cabin trail requires extensive poling and, at 61 years old, is quite a workout.”

— Mike Griggs, Deatsville, Ala.

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