A-Basin to study expansion into the Montezuma Bowl | SummitDaily.com

A-Basin to study expansion into the Montezuma Bowl

ARAPAHOE BASIN – Locals love it, and the ski area will conduct tests in an initial look at expanding Arapahoe Basin into Montezuma Bowl so that more visitors might enjoy it.

The U.S. Forest Service announced Thursday that A-Basin patrollers and mountain operations officials would begin snow and terrain studies in the backcountry area south of the ski area. The examination will include digging snow pits, assessing avalanche danger and cataloguing terrain. Ski area visitors might notice snowcats headed into the terrain several times a week through May.

When the Forest Service revised the White River National Forest Plan last year, Montezuma Bowl was added to Arapahoe Basin’s special use permit area. Forest Service Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton said the studies will likely determine the exact acreage that would be proposed for new terrain and whether or not a lift would be necessary.

Newton said, however, the area of interest is well above Montezuma Road with about a mile of buffer zone in between.

Arapahoe Basin chief operating officer Alan Henceroth said the studies are a very preliminary analysis of what it would take to add the terrain to the ski area’s boundaries. He said the ski area is getting crowded on weekends, and operators would like to add extra skiing opportunities for guests. The studies will help ski area operators understand how ski traffic will flow in the bowl and how to manage the avalanche danger in the slide-prone area.

“Most of all, it’s just

fantastic skiing back there,” Henceroth said. “But this is a lengthy and thorough process, and I wouldn’t begin to put a timeline on it.”

A-Basin’s last major project ran into time-consuming objections from environmental groups. Plans to install a snowmaking system took seven years of applications and permits, as well as a lawsuit filed by Colorado Wild and Trout Unlimited against the Colorado Water Board for approving one of those permits. The lawsuit was later settled out of court. Snowmaking at Arapahoe Basin began this season.

Colorado Wild forest watch coordinator Rocky Smith said Friday the environmental group would keep a close eye on proposals for Montezuma Bowl. Smith said his concerns included a future ski area portal on Montezuma Road, wildlife corridors and the continuing expansion of ski areas on public lands.

“It’s “keeping up with the Joneses’ on a grand scale,” Smith said. “The basic question is, how much is enough?”

Montezuma residents are taking a wait-and-see approach to any proposals for the bowl. Many residents are avid users of the backcountry area. Mayor Pro-tem Steve Hornback said the ski area approached town officials last month to inform them about the studies. He expressed some concern about wildlife corridors in the area but said it’s too early for the town to take a position on any expansion.

“Until we know what we’re looking at, we can’t make a proper response,” Hornback said. “But it is in our sphere of influence.”

Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 237, or rwilliams@summitdaily.com.

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