Arapahoe Basin administration hosted a master plan open house Wednesday that introduced a decade of improvements and additions to the ski area.
Proposed changes include new intermediate and expert terrain with lift-serviced skiing in the area's steep, easily accessible and avalanche-prone backcountry area known as The Beavers.
"That area currently operates as if it is part of the ski area - it's no secret that adventurous skiers go there," said Alan Henceroth, chief operating officer of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. "We want to formally add that area to inbound, accessible terrain and develop trails and intensive avalanche mitigation."
In the last 30 years, six deaths have resulted from avalanches in The Beavers backcountry area. One highly publicized incident in the mid-1990s triggered a lawsuit in which the court ruled that ski areas could not be held liable for skiers outside of ski area boundary. In the most recent incident, an avalanche in 2010 led to the fatality of a 20-year-old snowboarder in the backcountry area.
"With professionals evaluating that area daily for avalanche danger we think that it's in the best interest for the safety of the ski area and its users to formally adopt an area that is already actively being traversed," Henceroth said.
The proposed development in The Beavers would be the site of intermediate and expert trails as well as tree runs that would require some thinning of trees.
"There is some really great tree skiing there," Henceroth said. "We would do some cleaning up, pruning and thinning of trees, but nothing that would be noticeable from the highway."
Adding backcountry area is not a new idea, he said.
"Early maps of A-Basin in the 1960s outlined plans for developing the area but the resort just has not gotten that far," Henceroth said. "It is time to add this segment of great skiing into the boundaries of the ski area."
The master plan aims to make proposed improvements and additions over the course of the next decade. The process is still in its infancy stages and will be required to go through the National Environmental Policy Act permitting, which could take a few years, Henceroth said.
"We are not anticipating completing these projects all at once," Henceroth said. "We may be able to start as early as 2014 with the surface lift addition."
Other major projects proposed include a zip line tour, a surface lift at the top of Lenawee Lift to Montezuma Bowl and increased reservoir storage for snow making, which could double the capacity of snowmaking at A-Basin, according to Henceroth.
The zip lining course would be the first of its kind in Summit County with a proposed multi-zip course which would operate year round and offer a "discovery course" on the area's ecology and history.
"It's going to be a very special place," Henceroth said. "We're basing the design on zip lining courses in South America which educate the user on the area."
The new Master Plan, which went public for the first time Wednesday, also proposes the removal of the 35-year-old Norway Lift which would be replaced by the surface lift.
"The demand for the Norway lift is not high, the new surface lift with expand the capacity of skiers while spreading them out on the mountain," Henceroth said.
Henceroth said the lift projects would cost approximately $4-5 million while the zip lining would cost approximately $0.5-1 million though formal budgeting will not be completed until later in the planning stages and analysis of the Master Plan.
"Arapahoe Basin is a big, unpretentious, and challenging mountain that has changed lives," Henceroth said. "We're committed to keeping the culture and vibe of A-Basin the way it is."