The U.S. Forest Service announced the acceptance of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area's 2012 master plan upgrades Wednesday, including lift-served skiing in The Beavers backcountry area.
The acceptance kicks off the permitting process, requiring ski area officials to complete an environmental impact study.
"Our intention is to initiate the environmental impact study and the rest of the process early in 2013," said Alan Henceroth, the ski area's chief operating officer. "We're working with the Forest Service to get this completed as soon as possible but there are always variables that come up - it could take a couple years, maybe less but maybe more."
Once the permitting and environmental impact study have been completed, the four upgrades could take approximately five to 10 years to complete, according to Henceroth.
The plan went public Aug. 29 and proposed changes include the addition of new intermediate and expert terrain.
"That area currently operates as if it is part of the ski area - it's no secret that adventurous skiers go there," Henceroth said. "We want to formally add that area to inbound, accessible terrain and develop trails and intensive avalanche mitigation."
Other major projects proposed include a surface lift at the top of Lenawee Lift to Montezuma Bowl, a zip lining course and increased reservoir storage for snowmaking, which could double the capacity of snowmaking at A-Basin, according to Henceroth.
The first project planned for construction is the 35-year-old Norway Lift which would be replaced by the surface lift making it easier for intermediate skiers and riders to access Montezuma Bowl.
"We're really happy with the way Montezuma came out, but for some people it was still difficult to get to," Henceroth said. "We're adding this surface lift to officially wrap up that project."
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.
During the environmental analysis, A-Basin stakeholders will have the opportunity to review and comment on the proposed projects.
"The master development plan does an excellent job in identifying the existing and desired condition for the ski area and proposed improvements on the national forest system lands within the permit boundary," stated Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor for the White River National Forest in a press release.
Henceroth said the lift projects would cost approximately $4-5 million, while the zip lining would cost roughly $500,000-$1 million, though formal budgeting will not be completed until later in the planning stages and analysis of the master plan.
"We're very pleased with the acceptance from the Forest Service," Henceroth said. "We put a lot of energy into preparing a good plan and we're looking forward to the next steps."