Vail bowls to see high-speed quad |

Vail bowls to see high-speed quad

Vail Daily file A decision issued Tuesday by the U.S. Forest Service allows Vail Mountain to replace Chair 5 in the Back Bowls with an express lift and build a new lift in Sun Down Bowl.

VAIL, Colo. – Chair 5 in Vail’s Sun Down and Sun Up Bowls could be a high-speed quad as early as next season – something Vail Resorts officials have wanted since 2007.

The U.S. Forest Service issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement Record of Decision Tuesday that approves the upgrade, along with several other proposed upgrades for the ski area.

Skiers commented on the announcement on Tuesday with disappointment.

“Well, Sun Down is really gonna get tracked out now,” wrote Jim Honsberger.

The current lift, a non-detachable triple, needs the upgrade, said Vail Resorts spokeswoman Liz Biebl.

“The Chair 5 upgrade will increase uphill capacity, which will better accommodate existing and future use of Sun Up and Sun Down Bowls, as well as skier circulation egress from the Back Bowls to the front side of Vail Mountain,” Biebl said Tuesday.

Vail Resorts initiated a National Environmental Policy Act review in September 2007 for projects in its 2007 Master Development Plan Update, which include upgrading chair five to a high-speed quad, installing a high-speed quad lift in Sun Down Bowl, expanding the training and racing terrain on Golden Peak, providing maintained access to West Earl’s Bowl, snowmaking on intermediate trails served by chairs 19 and 26 and the construction of a new maintenance facility and restaurant.

Chris Jarnot, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Vail Mountain, said the company hasn’t decided when the other projects could happen, but said the Chair 5 replacement should begin construction next summer.

The requested upgrades all fall within Vail’s special use permit boundary with the Forest Service, according to the Forest Service’s record of decision.

Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest, said there’s a 45-day appeal period in which anyone involved in the impact study process can appeal the approval. The Forest Service would then have its own 45-day period to respond to any appeals, he said. If there aren’t any appeals, the project could begin next year, he said.

The impact study did eliminate a few proposed projects out of various environmental concerns. Snowmaking expansions were scaled back to include only the Simba trail because of soil and watershed concerns, the decision said.

The proposal for maintained access to West Earl’s Bowl was dropped because of potential impacts to the lynx habitat, and the on-mountain restaurant was relocated from the summit of the mountain to mid-mountain.

“I think it’s important to understand that what Vail originally proposed and what I have approved are different,” Fitzwilliams said Tuesday, adding that Vail Resorts was willing to make adjustments to its plans because of the environmental concerns.

Fitzwilliams called the approval a “good decision” and said the projects would increase efficiency on the mountain, improve circulation and add on-mountain guest services, all while protecting “important resource values,” he said.

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