BRECKENRIDGE - Five new high-alpine bowls, 543 new acres and a 23 percent increase in skiable terrain.
That's the package of improvements Breckenridge Ski Resort is promising skiers and snowboarders with the opening of its fifth mountain, Peak 6, at the start of the 2013-2014 ski season.
The expansion will be Breckenridge's first in more than a decade and is expected to make headlines across the industry.
For the resort, the project was hard won, fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and pushback from a community loathe to see acres of healthy trees be cut in a forest already devastated by the pine beetle epidemic.
Though the project's opposition hasn't yet conceded defeat - there's talk of litigation relating to the U.S. Forest Service decision to allow the project - approval on the expansion was a big win for the resort, one it's preparing to leverage with other Breckenridge businesses.
"The addition of Peak 6 for the 2013-2014 ski season will be a huge step for both the ski resort and our entire community in providing an improved customer experience for our guests," Breckenridge director of marketing Kieran Cain stated in a letter directed to members of the business community. "We hope you share our excitement in what will be the biggest news in the ski industry over the next year."
The letter was included with a series of talking points for local business owners to provide to employees who work with customers.
The project drew heated but mixed reactions from the community prior to its approval, with some celebrating the prospect of new skiable terrain and others railing against prospective harm to the forest and wildlife in the area.
For some, the impending construction signals the end of a long fight.
"I have no hard feelings," said former town Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron, who was a vocal opponent of the expansion. "Sometimes you fight a battle not because you think you can win it, but because it's the right thing to do."
In August, after years of environmental studies and community debate, the Forest Service approved the more than 500-acre expansion, which will add a fifth mountain to the resort. Within the boundaries will be 10 new-cut trails, 13 runs above treeline and the resort's first above-timberline intermediate terrain. Skiers and snowboarders will be able to access the mountain via a four-person chair and a detachable six-person lift from Peak 7. There will also be a warming hut at the top of the mountain and a restroom facility at the mid-load location.
The resort agreed not to develop a base area on Peak 6 prior to the expansion's approval and withdrew and initial request for a restaurant on the new terrain from the application.
Breckenridge sits on land owned by the Forest Service, within a designated boundary. The Peak 6 expansion falls within the existing boundaries.