A-Basin’s ‘Zuma Bowl lift gets Forest Service nod | SummitDaily.com

A-Basin’s ‘Zuma Bowl lift gets Forest Service nod

BOB BERWYNSummit Daily News

Summit Daily file photo

SUMMIT COUNTY – Arapahoe Basin this week moved another step closer to realizing plans for lift-served skiing in Montezuma Bowl with release of a draft Forest Service environmental study for the proposal.In the draft analysis, Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson chose Alternative 2, the proposed action, as the preferred plan for the ski area. The plan also includes upgrading the Exhibition lift, as well as reconfiguring backcountry access and boosting parking capacity.”It’s an exciting project and we think a good one,” Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton said. “We hope we dealt with the things we needed to,” Newton said, adding that the Forest Service wants input on the draft. “That’s part of the process,” he said.As spelled out in the draft study, the upgrades would increase A-Basin’s comfortable carrying capacity by 22 percent, from 3,210 skiers to 3,910 skiers. The changes would also boots the area’s uphill lift capacity substantially, from 7,600 to 11,400 people per hour.Ski area officials previously said they would consider construction of the lift in 2007 pending final approval.

Montezuma Bowl would add about 175 acres of intermediate terrain and 150 acres of advanced and expert terrain, boosting A-Basin’s overall lift-served acreage from 490 to 837 acres. Grooming is proposed for about 37 acres of terrain in the bowl, along with a 3,000-foot groomed path along the west ridge of the bowl.A new access point for Thurman’s Bowl would be located on the eastern side of the ridge, about 700 feet east of the new lift’s top terminal, with another new access point for the Rock Pile area proposed farther down the western ridge line. A new access point for the Beavers is planned at about 700 feet west of the top of the proposed new lift. A fourth access point would be located below the bottom of the new lift as egress for a route down to Montezuma.The proposed action, combined with previously approved projects, also includes parking upgrades to increase capacity by 23 percent, to 1,781 vehicles. That includes 146 spaces in the Lower Overflow lot and 95 spots in the High Noon lot.Parking was one of the key concerns identified during scoping, Newton said. “We looked long and hard at … putting the available space to best use,” Newton said, recognizing the limitations of the topography in the narrow canyon. “We feel comfortable that we will have enough capacity for normal busy days at A-Basin,” he said.

A proposed permanent all-terrain-vehicle route into Montezuma Bowl was eliminated from the proposal after determining that the new lift can be built without vehicular access. That move also helps reduce impacts to natural resources.The overall purpose of the plan is to better disperse intermediate and advanced skiers throughout A-Basin’s terrain; to accommodate existing and future demand for skiing in Summit County and to improve the area’s out-of-base lift capacity (by upgrading Exhibition.Issues that came up during the early stages of the analysis included the loss of lift-served backcountry terrain and concerns about parking capacity. The status of the Porcupine Peak roadless area, which partly overlaps the proposed ‘Zuma Bowl expansion area, was also raised as a concern.The draft study states that the addition of lift-served skiing in the area won’t significantly alter the roadless characteristics of the area. The draft Forest Service study also concludes that about 3.1 acres of lynx foraging habitat would be permanently lost, and identifies mitigation in the form of enhancing habitat elsewhere in the vicinity of the ski area.

Comment on the draftThe Draft Environmental Impact Statement for A-Basin’s Montezuma Bowl expansion is available in hard copy or as a CD at the Dillon District visitor center on Blue River Parkway (Highway 9) in Silverthorne. Call (970) 468-5400 for more information. The draft study is also posted on the web at http://www.fs.fed.us/r2/whiteriver/projects.The Forest Service will take public comments on the draft for 45 days, through early September. Written comments must be submitted to Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson, C/O Peech Keller, U.S. Forest Service, P.O. Box 610, Silverthorne, CO 80498. Electronic comments should be sent to comments-rocky-mountain-white-river-eastzone@fs.fed.us.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.