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Colorado Wild misplaces its priorities

Kevin WoodBreckenridge

I generally applaud the actions of Colorado Wild in opposing rampant development and attempting to protect the alpine environment of our mountains, but executive director Jeff Berman seems to be suffering from misplaced priorities regarding the proposed Summit Lift at Breckenridge.Many environmentalists (a label which I would apply to myself) lose credibility by opposing any and every sort of development, without a sense of proportion or compromise. Wouldn’t Colorado Wild’s resources be better spent supporting its ongoing efforts to derail, for example, the plans to build a more-than-2,000 residential unit base village (which would rival the largest anywhere in the state!) at the top of Wolf Creek Pass – where there is now no residential village at all? Or how about opposing the proposed gas drilling in a variety of proposed wilderness areas around the state – when existing and other new leases in less sensitive areas will be nowhere near fully exploited for years? While it might be reasonable to argue against a lift to the top of Peak 8 in aesthetic terms, to maintain the “purist” nature of hike-to only terrain, or even simply out of a selfish desire by those who regularly have the energy and time to hike there to keep it for themselves – his argument that it won’t address crowding is shallow and uninformed.Much as the Peak 8 SuperConnect Lift has eased the bottleneck that frequently existed at the old Chair 4, the Summit Lift, in conjunction with the replacement of 6 Chair with a high-speed quad would provide significant new capacity for the upper part of Peak 8 – where anyone who has ever skied on a busy weekend or powder morning knows – the lines get long. While these new lifts may stimulate still more skiers to go there, wouldn’t that mean there is already demand for it? I am surely not alone in forgoing the T-bar or 6 Chair purely to avoid the lines. Berman’s suggestion that the ski resort management should instead address crowding by pricing structure changes ignores the basic facts that most Front Range skiers can only ski primarily on weekends.Isn’t it logical that, as a for-profit business, any actions that would reduce crowding without negatively affecting overall revenues would be clearly in the interest of the ski resort? Most skiers clearly would also regard that as an “improvement” to the mountain? Further, why should ski companies’ tendency to compete and “steal” customers from each other be criticized? They are businesses, after all. They may operate largely on public lands, but I dare say we wouldn’t have much of an infrastructure for alpine skiing or snowboarding if it were up to the federal government to build and maintain it.What’s wrong with constantly trying to improve the product? If the industry remains zero-growth, then just as surely successful expansions on Peak 8 and at Breckenridge would relieve crowding somewhere else – like on Peak 10 or at Keystone.And areas poorly suited for the sport will disappear and gradually be returned to a more natural state – see now defunct areas at Conquistador, Broadmoor, Geneva Basin, Genesee, etc. Since it is just about inevitable that the ski industry grows, isn’t it much better to contain that expansion within areas already permitted, patrolled and avalanche controlled? The above-treeline bowls and chutes of Peaks 7 and 8, not to mention the views from the top of the Tenmile Range, are extraordinary. With only very limited environmental impacts, expanded access to it will build on the existing character (not change it) and make an already great ski area better and more unique. I for one look forward to it.


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