The trails on Peak 6 are taking shape.
Breckenridge Ski Resort’s expansion project will increase the amount of skiable terrain at the resort by almost a quarter. About 80 percent of the new terrain has been cleared, and the foundations for the lift towers are being installed.
“It’s all coming together,” said Kristen Petitt Stewart, senior communications manager at the resort.
The Peak 6 project will include 400 acres of lift-served terrain and 143 acres of hike-to terrain. The resort also plans to add a high-speed, six-person chairlift and a fixed-grip chairlift to access the Peak 6 area.
Stewart visited the Peak 6 construction site with Gary Shimanowitz, director of mountain operations at Breckenridge Ski Resort, and U.S. Forest Service ranger Shelly Grail on Friday morning.
Grail has been heavily involved in the Peak 6 construction process this summer. She said she’s been overseeing the work and making sure the design criteria laid out by the Forest Service is being followed properly.
Peak 6, located in the Breckenridge’s special-use permit boundary, is the first ski terrain expansion on U.S. Forest Service land in Colorado since 2008 and the first at Breckenridge since the Peak 7 expansion in 2002.
Although the removal of about 70 acres of trees has obvious impacts on the landscape, project representatives said they are incorporating best practices to avoid undo harm to the environment.
“We aren’t denying that there is an impact to the landscape, but we are just trying to keep it as minimal as we can during the construction process,” Stewart said.
Project managers are working to avoid erosion by leaving the stumps of trees in the ground as the trails are being cleared. Erosion-control logs have been set in place to prevent sediment from entering into waterways, and hand crews are working in sensitive wetland areas. Topsoil removed from excavation sites is being protected for re-vegetation projects, Grail said.
Trucks are not allowed at the top of the summit. Instead, construction workers are using a spider hoe, also known as a walking excavator, to complete the work.
“The spider hoe is a really light impact piece of machinery that we can take to the top, and dig the top terminal foundation and the base for lift towers above timberline,” Shimanowitz said.
The design of the machinery allows it to move through the landscape with a lighter footprint than most heavy equipment.
“I was looking for the path it took when I was up on Wednesday, and I couldn’t figure out where it had gone up,” Grail said.
Trees that have been removed from the mountainside are being sold as timber, or made into woodchips and sent to the biomass plants in Gypsum or Climax mine for their remediation projects, Shimanowitz said.
Because there are no roads to the top of the mountain, crews are being transported in by helicopter. They are in the process of delineating boundaries by installing fences and signs, and will also be setting up avalanche control equipment. Project organizers hope to get the bulk of the work at the top of Peak 6 finished before the winter weather rolls in.
“At some point we’ll have to switch from trucks to snowmobiles and snowcats,” Shimanowitz said.
The names for the chairlifts and the additional runs haven’t been determined, but Stewart encouraged the public to stay tuned.
“There may be some room to contribute,” she said.
If all goes well, Peak 6 will open to the public in December, project organizers said.