Summer flights from Eagle will have more passengers
EAGLE COUNTY – Some numbers look bigger than they are. Like reservations on summer flights.Reservations are up on American Airlines’ summer flight from Dallas, as well as on United Airlines’ flights from Chicago and Denver. In the case of the United flights, early reservations are running at nearly twice last year’s levels.There’s a caveat, of course.While the increases look big, there are still far more empty seats than passengers so far.On the flight from Dallas, service that’s run for several years now, just more than 30 percent of this summer’s available seats are filled so far. The United flights have filled only about 20 percent of the seats on those planes. Most of the reservations made by the middle of this month were for flights in June.The summer flight program is backed up by local money called “seat guarantees.” If the airlines don’t make a pre-determined amount of money off their summer flights, money set aside from the towns and the chambers make up the difference. Those guarantee funds haven’t been used much in the past, and may not be tapped this year because of the rising price of airline tickets.- Scott MillerJudge rules against Aspen, for environmentalistsASPEN – The Aspen Skiing Co.’s plan to expand backcountry skiing on Burnt Mountain has been derailed, at least temporarily.The U.S. Forest Service’s regional office in Denver ruled in favor of a Wyoming-based environmental group’s claim that a portion of the Skico’s plan would adversely affect an inventoried roadless area. The Ark Initiative filed an appeal in April over White River National Forest Supervisor Maribeth Gustafson’s approval of the Skico project.The Skico wants to thin trees and expand what it dubs a “semi-backcountry experience” on Burnt Mountain. Currently only the Long Shot run is developed on Burnt Mountain. It’s more of a general route through the trees than a distinctive trail. The Skico wants to create more such runs to the east of Long Shot.The project would be spread over 500 acres but add only about 200 acres of skiable terrain, according to Skico officials. A key to the project is expanding an existing traverse that brings skiers and riders back into the Two Creeks portion of Snowmass Ski Area, where they can ride a chairlift to the top. The Ark Initiative filed a 217-page appeal that raised numerous objections about the Skico’s plan and the local Forest Service’s approval of the application. Greg Griffith, a deputy regional forester, rejected all the points in the appeal except the roadless concerns. Griffith handed down the decision Monday and Ark Initiative Executive Director Donald Duerr received it Wednesday.Griffith wrote that the effects on roadless areas need further study. Until then, “actions associated with the Burnt Mountain Ski Traverse and Ski Trail Development may not be implemented.”The White River National Forest supervisor’s office didn’t interpret the regional office’s decision to have as great an impact as Duerr did. Dan Hormaechea, a forest planner, said any part of the Skico project outside inventoried roadless areas could proceed. That’s the majority of the project, he said.Since the decision was just handed down, Hormaechea said he needed more time to evaluate how it affects specific parts of the project.- Scott Condon
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