Copper taking public comment about proposed improvements
COPPER MOUNTAIN – Public comment is being taken on a Draft Environmental Impact Statement that updates the Copper Mountain ski area master plan.
The plan proposes a new lift to the top of Tucker Mountain, a new and realigned Sierra lift to put riders on the top of Union Peak and four areas of glading to improve tree skiing and boarding.
Additionally, a larger Solitude Station would be built as would and a new ski patrol hut on top of Tucker Mountain and a warming hut at the top of the Rendezvous lift that would sell prepackaged food.
The Alpine lift also would be replaced and extended slightly higher on the mountain.
Snowcat operations would be shifting to a mid-mountain location near the top of the American Eagle lift.
A near doubling of snowmaking coverage and a larger water diversion in Ten Mile Creek also are proposed.
Resort officials said the proposals are primarily designed to address mountain maintenance issues.
“With the exception of the addition of a lift on Tucker and snowmaking S they’re all more housekeeping improvements,” said Jim Spenst, vice president of operations.
The proposed changes are unlikely to proceed before next season since the resort must first solicit the approval of the U.S. Forest Service, which leases the land to the resort. However, that review process is already underway, with the Ten Mile Planning Commission slated to hear a county planning staff report on the issue at its meeting tonight.
The commission has no authority to permit or deny the changes, however it will review the document and submit recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners, which will in turn present an official comment letter to the Forest Service.
Glading to improve tree skiing and riding is a big part of the plan. Gladed improvements are proposed for the 4-7 Glades to the skiers’ right of the bottom of the Super Bee and in areas called Powerline 1, 2 and 3 to the skiers’ right of the Far East Trail in the Alpine lift vicinity.
A new trail called Upper Cabin Chute is proposed to the skiers’ left of Cabin Chute in the Resolution lift-served terrain.
In the proposed opening of lift-served skiing on Tucker Mountain, the resort proposes glading four areas at the bottom of the mountain, roughly opposite the bottom of the Blackjack lift in the Copper Bowl. The bottom of the Tucker lift would be farther to the east, down the gulch, and a skiway would be created through the gulch.
More glading is proposed in the West Bench area on the westernmost side of the ski area to improve tree skiing there and better direct users to the Soliloquy Trail and the Timberline lift.
Snowmaking capacity could expand to cover an additional 314 acres on top of the currently approved 356 acres.
Solitude Station could be renovated and expanded to accommodate 500 more skiers.
A patrol station, warming hut and snow vehicle maintenance shop may also be constructed.
“Some of them are significant changes, but they’ve all been talked about for a number of years,” County Planner Mark Truckey said.
The impacts of the improvements could range from disrupting elk calving patterns to a potential for higher metal concentrations in area streams from water originating in Ten Mile Creek, according to the DEIS. The county staff report also highlights increased parking needs stemming from an expected increase of 200,000 day skiers in the next ten years.
However, many of these issues may be addressed by an alternative proposal identified as the preferred option by the Forest Service. It would curtail some trail construction while retaining many of the primary developments, including the Tucker Mountain lift.
Overall, the changes are designed to help Copper improve the quality of its product, Spenst said.
“Some of its maintenance, some of it is some new things that they’re looking at doing,” Truckey said. “It’s all having to do with making Copper competitive in the marketplace.”
Copper’s request is called Alternative 2 in the DEIS. Alternative 1 is the do-nothing choice.
Alternatives 3 and 4 variously reduce snowmaking, glading and drop the Tucker Mountain lift for wildlife movement, habitat and alpine tundra-related issues.
Alternative 5 is White River National Forest Service Supervisor Martha Ketelle’s choice. It gives Copper most of what it wants, but reduces glading, snowmaking and water diversion needs to address environmental concerns.
Comments on the DEIS must be postmarked by Sept. 8 and should be sent in care of Michael Liu, Project Manager, Dillon Ranger District, PO Box 620, Silverthorne, CO 80498.
For information or to review the report, call (970) 468-5400.
Aidan Leonard can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or
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