After six years of planning, revisions, environmental impact analysis — followed by the Forest Service’s final approval and a summer’s worth of construction — the much-anticipated Peak 6 expansion at Breckenridge Ski Resort opened to the public at noon on Wednesday.
Roughly 200 of the expansion’s 540 new acres, all of which are served by two new chairlifts, were available on opening day.
For Riley and Trevor Scannell, of Littleton, it was an opening worth waiting for. The brothers were in line and ready to go a full two and a half hours before opening.
“Just ready to get some fresh pow,” Riley Scannel said, standing in line. “It’s going to be sweet.”
A couple hundred eager powderhounds lined up behind them ready for a taste of the first new ski terrain in Colorado since Arapahoe Basin Ski Area added its Monetezuma Bowl in 2008.
For Breckenridge it was the first major addition since its Peak 7 expansion in 2002. When fully open, the new terrain will expand the resort by almost 25 percent. It is considered to be one of the largest ski area expansions in North America in recent memory.
“We couldn’t be more excited about being able to open Peak 6 this holiday season,” Breck’s chief operating officer Pat Campbell said in a release earlier in the week. “This project has been years in the making.”
After a brief ceremonial ribbon cutting, the gathered masses cheered and began loading the Kensho SuperChair for an inaugural ride.
If the smiles on skiers’ and riders’ faces were any indication, the expansion was largely well received.
“I thought it was really nice,” Mave McHugh, of Denver, said after a run with her family. “It was really fresh up there and it was something different. It’s nice that they are expanding so much. There’s a lot more to play on.”
The expansion includes intermediate above-tree-line terrain as well as substantial hike-accessible expert terrain with up to 40 degree steeps and chutes comparable to A-Basin’s West Wall. The expert terrain will remain closed until additional avalanche mitigation can be done. Some portions will also require additional snowfall before they can opened for the season.
It wasn’t all smiles Wednesday, however. While most didn’t seem to mind waiting a little extra time for a first run on new terrain during busy a Christmas Day, there were — as might be expected — some guests who bemoaned the long lift lines that the opening created. Some skiers reported it taking them an hour and a half to make it from the line at Zendo Chair (the lift from Peak 7 to the base of Peak 6) to the front of the line for Kenosho SuperChair, which goes to the summit. Once at the base most guests said the Kenosho line took them 15 to 20 minutes.
When the mountain is fully open, Peak 6 will also be accessible via the Imperial Express SuperChair on Peak 8.
After the initial hype and curiosity subsides, the expansion is expected to alleviate lift traffic concerns across the mountain. That was one of the primary justifications for the project.
Not without resistance
In the six years leading up to Peak 6’s opening, Breckenridge’s terrain expansion met with some opposition from environmental groups and backcountry enthusiasts disappointed that open terrain was being encroached on by the resort. Environmentalists were concerned about protection of Canada lynx habitat and drainage issues with streams in the expansion area. The groups’ appeal of the expansion was denied, in part because the area of expansion was already included in Breckenridge’s special-use permit and the Forest Service felt that environmental concerns were being met through the approved plan.
VIDEO: Summmit Daily News reporter Sebastian Foltz enjoys some first turns during opening day of Peak 6 at Breckenridge.