Coverage of Summit Lift doesn’t do the facts justice
For several years, I have admired the generally even-handed way in which you managed local news reporting. You might remember that I expressed this to you early in your tenure. Recently, I admired your editorial approach to local races and issues in November’s election. While I found myself at variance with a number of Summit Daily News endorsements, your treatment of each candidate and ballot issue was in my judgment generally reasonable and fair.That’s why I’m puzzled and disappointed by the incomplete and uneven treatment afforded the proposal to install new lifts on the back side of Peak 8. With the notable exception of Kevin Woods’ thoughtful letter, the several writers (both paid by SDN and not) either cite dubious sources or just plain make stuff up. Balance in articles authored by paid staff is conspicuously absent.For example, there’s the repeated assertion of an alleged correlation between being able to hike from 12,000 to 12,988 feet in ski boots and the ability to competently ski terrain found at the top of the hike.That doesn’t work for my spouse, a disabled veteran, who has handled much tougher terrain in at least eight countries and a similar number of states, but is unable to climb the 1,000 vertical feet in ski boots due to her disability. (Well, she can do the hike, but she’d have a balloon for a knee the next day.)Similarly, our stream of house guests typically arrives from elevations within a few hundred feet of sea level.Although more fit than average, they are also smarter than to attempt a climb starting at 12,000 feet during their week’s stay.Besides, they generally look at the terrain and judge it to be less challenging than areas they’ve already experienced at Courchevel, Crested Butte, Kitzbuhel, Jackson, Squaw or Val Thorens, and certainly not worth the hike’s time.Another popular assertion is that the proposed lift will fail to relieve crowding on the lower mountain. No attempt is made to quantify the impact of lifting some 600 skiers and riders (versus 100 hikers) per hour onto terrain they would otherwise not access. No mention at all is made of the affect of twice as many folks arriving by lift at the base of Imperial Bowl on the backside of Peak 8, some presumably headed up and others down. Rather, the inference is that if the Summit Lift and the 6 Chair replacement don’t solve all crowding, they’re not worth doing. Well, do the math. On busy days the proposed lift combination will take more than 1,000 skiers an hour off of the “front side” of the resort than is presently accomplished by 6 Chair, alone.That’s more than 5 percent of the 18,000 skiers per day Breck hosts on a typical holiday. It’s 10 percent of a typical nonholiday Saturday crowd of 10,000. Is that significant? A self-appointed local authority who doubles as a regular SDN columnist quotes “some estimations” that the proposed lift will “be open less than half the season …” No doubt someone has so postulated. (Remember when an irate expert wailed against the proposed SuperConnect because there would be long lines at the midstation … or was that before your arrival?) Doesn’t make it true, but apparently that’s not important.The same authority asserts that “thin snow, wind-hammered conditions and barely covered rocks” would not meet the expectations of lift riders, a picturesque, if disingenuous approach to generalizing “typical” conditions on 500 acres facing 2.5 cardinal compass points. Worse, if true, she missed the upside economic boost for local ski repair shops. Separately, the SDN editor found reason to personally report as news the Colorado Wild opinion that some unknown resort at an unspecified location might sometime in the indeterminate future ask for an unsized expansion of unidentified terrain, all as a result of Breck’s providing lift access to terrain that for years has been marked, patrolled, avalanche controlled, and skied. Yep, and the sky might indeed fall.Having provided a platform for the Colorado Wild mini-minority (400 out of 4 million) opinion, there is no apparent SDN interest in opinions of other groups. For example, Over the Hill Gang chapters who ski local resorts weekly or ski clubs who bring thousands of destination visitors to Summit County each season. (Juxtaposing an interest group opinion with a resort executive’s response provides an unpleasant odor, not balance.)The professionally curious might even wonder what the sponsors and patrons of the Hartford Ski Classic – you know, the event that brings several thousand of those pesky ADA types to town – might think about gaining lift access to the Peak 8 upper mountain. Most of them aren’t real big hikers.Well, columnist Marc Carlisle had at least one thing right when he said we all have opinions, sort of like having heads and buttocks. What’s absolutely missing from the SDN to this point is a measured exposition of pertinent facts and balanced reporting on the views of several groups with different interests, and maybe even an editorial position. Would you prefer readers just infer it from the “reporting” to date?OK, enough whining. I’ve sent my letter to the U.S. Forest Service, so have my friends from both coasts and several foreign locations.We all think lift access to mildly challenging inbounds terrain is a great idea. We also think that the Forest Service should strongly support enhanced access to public land for its long designated purpose of alpine skiing. Silly us.Disclosure: Having retired from professional life several years ago, my hobby is helping to make Breck’s lifts go around. I punch the clock several days a week and have no management or policy role, for which Breck’s leadership is routinely grateful.
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