Keystone cat skiing a no-go
KEYSTONE – Resort officials at Keystone were hoping to offer a new snow-cat skiing program this season, but Forest Service officials announced this week they could not approve the program at this time.
“A decision was made, and it’s not the one we wanted,” said Keystone Communications Manager Mike Lee. “We are not allowed to do cat skiing this year. We’re bummed about it, obviously, because we knew it would have been great for (our) guests to experience.”
Snowcat skiing involves a treaded vehicle taking snowriders outside a resort’s operation boundary to ski.
Keystone officials began discussions about a possible cat skiing program last summer, said Joe Foreman, winter sports administrator for the White River National Forest Dillon Ranger District.
“(They) indicated they might be interested in trying to do some kind of cat skiing operation,” Foreman said, adding that he informed resort officials there might be some issues related to the request and that the ski area should submit a proposal to the Forest Service. “The ski area decided last fall they were not going to pursue it this year.”
Keystone renewed its interest in cat skiing this winter and submitted a proposal, he said
The proposed cat skiing would have been in an area called Little Bowl, west of Keystone Mountain, just beyond the current ski-area operations boundary, Lee said.
“The project would occur within or adjacent to lynx winter foraging or denning habitat, (and) … the project also occurs within a designated lynx-
linkage area,” Foreman said. “This proposal would increase the level of human disturbance to lynx habitat, and, therefore, it may affect lynx or their habitat.”
Because of lynx concerns, Forest Service officials could not approve the program in the requested time frame unless they could show conclusively it would not have an effect on the animals or their habitat, he said. The U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the final authority for any projects with lynx concerns.
“We need more time to get to the point where U. S. Fish and Wildlife could give us a determination on lynx impacts,” Foreman said.
Though Keystone’s cat skiing program was not approved for this season, it doesn’t preclude it from approval in the future, he said.
“We’re going to have to look at it this summer,” Foreman said.
Keystone officials have not given up hope to offer the program in another season, Lee said.
“(But) with a significant ruling like this lynx ruling, obviously it makes it much more difficult for us to continue with that type of thing in the future,” he said.
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