SUMMIT COUNTY - Backcountry skiers will have a chance to learn about A-Basin's proposal for lift-served skiing in Montezuma Bowl this Friday, when ski area officials and U.S. Forest Service rangers will host a site visit to discuss the plans and related backcountry access issues."There are two reasons for this meeting," said Arapahoe Basin general manager Alan Henceroth. "The first is to educated backcountry stakeholders about our Montezuma Bowl proposal. And the biggest part is to listen to what they have to say about backcountry access and where they would like to see backcountry access," Henceroth said.A site visit to the existing access points is planned for noon, with participants meeting on the second floor, north end of the A-Frame base lodge. The second part of the meeting, to look at maps and answer any remaining questions, is set for 3 p.m. in the same location."We want to talk about all the access points and see what folks are thinking," said U.S. Forest Service snow ranger Shelly Grail. "What do people want to see in the future?"
Grail said that, in the early stages of evaluating A-Basin's Montezuma Bowl plan, the Forest Service received several scoping comments from backcountry skiers expressing concern about a potential loss of access."We want to make it clear that it's not going to affect access," Grail said.A-Basin and the Forest Service are examining the possibility of adding a chairlift in the bowl that would expand the area's skiable acreage significantly, adding about 325 acres of intermediate and expert terrain. Montezuma Bowl is currently allocated for lift-served skiing under the White River National Forest plan, and also overlaps with a designated roadless area. The concern among some local backcountry skiers is that lift-served operations in Montezuma Bowl would limit access to other popular backcountry runs nearby, said Frisco resident Tom Castrigno, who submitted a comment letter on behalf of local backcountry skiers."A big concern is the limit that will be placed on this access point during adverse weather conditions and control work. Much of the terrain is low angle and skiable during poor weather or unstable snow conditions. Should access become unavailable at any time due to ski area operations, that would represent a big loss of forest services," Castrigno wrote.
Castrigno said he based his comments on observations from other local ski areas, where avalanche control work on in-bounds terrain is "often delayed due to weather, lack of staffing, budget, or other reasons."He said the Forest Service should require control work to be completed by 9 a.m. so that the access point can be open consistently, or to relocate the access points so that they would continue to provide unlimited access to the areas east and west of Montezuma Bowl.Access Issues Public Meeting What: Public meeting on A-Basin access issue on Friday
When: Noon site visit to existing access points; 3 p.m. informational meeting with maps, Q-n-A. Where: Both meetings on second floor, north end of A-Frame base lodge at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Info: Call Shelly Grail, at (970) 262-3484.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.