Forest service sets the stage for skiing at Peak 6
BRECKENRIDGE – A behind-the-scenes adjustment of national forest permit boundaries at the Breckenridge Nordic Center and Breckenridge ski area opens the door for development of lift-served skiing on to Peak 6.Forest Service rangers said the change was no big deal, but EPA officials said their agency hasn’t previously seem a ski area boundary expansion happen outside of a broader ski area or forest planning process, even as part of an agreement between adjacent permit holders. Nordic center owner Gene Dayton said the move is in the best interests of the public and touted the many years of cooperation between the cross country facility and the ski resort.Rick Sramek, vice president of mountain operations for Breckenridge Ski Resort, confirmed that the ski area wants to work on some master planning this summer, calling Peak 6 the “final piece” of the resort.”What we were looking for was a good tie-in to the Peak 6 area,” Sramek said. “We were looking for a piece that would make access and egress (to and from Peak 6) possible. It accommodates ski-over access from Peak 7 to a bottom terminal,” Sramek said.”It’s likely we’ll start master-planning this summer,” Sramek said, adding that the public will have a chance to review and comment on preliminary plans.Making what he called a non-significant permit amendment, Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton in early April carved about between 200 and 300 acres out of the nordic center and added it to Breckenridge Ski Area’s permitted terrain.
Newton said the agreement between two amicable adjacent permit holders enabled the agency to make the move without requiring public review or comment. Additionally, he said both areas are allocated to the same management prescription under the White River National Forest plan.”The terrain is better suited to alpine skiing,” Newton said, characterizing it as steeper terrain that wasn’t being used under the nordic center’s permit. Newton said the terrain added to the resort’s permit area at the base of Peak 6 will give better access for any type of proposed lift-served skiing. Large parts of Peak 6 are designated for lift-served skiing under the White River National Forest plan, but any specific proposal for lifts or trails would require site-specific analysis and review, according to Newton.No formal proposal in in the works, but the agency has had one meeting with the ski area to discuss the start of a master planning process that will encompass Peak 6, Newton said.”I suspect you’ll see some master planning and public involvement components, maybe even this summer,” Newton said.Permit adjustment spurs questions
The EPA is questioning why the Forest Serivce made the boundary adjustment without any chance for public scrutiny.”Off hand, I don’t know of a reason to expand a permit boundary separate from a specific proposal to expand the ski area where the need for additional terrain could be fully evaluated with public input,” Strobel said.Forest Service and ski industry watchdog group Colorado Wild voiced more outspoken criticism, calling it part of a pattern of incrementally piece-mealing decisions to avoid taking the hard look required by federal environmental laws.”When an agency action facilitates other actions, the impacts need to be analyzed as an indirect effect,” said Colorado Wild executive director Ryan Demmy Bidwell. A change from cross country to lift-served is a significant change in use, considering that alpine lifts and ski trails require wide, clear-cut trails, he said. “This should have been done as part of the master plan, giving the public a chance to comment,” he said.”A non-significant amendment doesn’t lead to any change in use on the landscape,” he added.Asked for comment, Breckenridge-based wilderness activist Currie Craven also questioned the agency’s stealth approach.
“It’s certainly something that should be done by full public light,” Craven said. “Its’ extremely troubling. If it (the boundary change) leads to development of lift-served skiing on Peak 6, how do they know it’s non-significant before they’ve heard from wildlife agencies,” Craven said, pointing out that Peak 6 includes elk habitat and some of the most intact stands of old-growth spruce and fir anywhere in the Tenmile Range.Craven said the move also raises once again the larger issue carrying capacity at the resort and in the Upper Blue.”We’re already struggling with infrastructure issues; transportation, water,” Craven said.Such issues are generally scrutinized by the Forest Service during a site-specific review with various environmental reviews.”We all knew Peak 6 was on the table,” said Tom Castrigno, a Frisco backcountry ski enthusiast who in the past has expressed concern about ski area expansions on to adjacent backcountry terrain.”They just really do whatever the heck they want. I don’t know that a public process would really have been productive,” Catrigno said, sounding resigned and referencing last winter’s loud, but ultimately fruitless Donnybrook over the Imperial Express lift. “We can either make a fuss about it or go on with our lives,” Castrigno said. Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 3311-5996, or at email@example.com.
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