Town drafts letter addressing Peak 6 expansion
February 15, 2008
BRECKENRIDGE ” The Breckenridge Town Council is asking the U.S. Forest Service to assess the comfortable carrying capacity of the town as part of an environmental study on the proposed ski area expansion onto Peak 6.
A draft comment letter to the agency was discussed at a Feb. 12 council work session. Ski area representatives listened carefully to the talks and said afterward that they didn’t hear any new concerns.
“We welcome the chance to get the town’s input,” said Breckenridge Ski Resort spokesperson Nicky DeFord.
The current Forest Service scoping period is the time to get all the issues and concerns out on the table, DeFord said. The resort agrees the overall carrying capacity of the town is a key issue.
According to Vail Resorts executives, the Peak 6 expansion is designed to add more intermediate terrain to one of the busiest ski mountains in the country. According to the Forest Service scoping notice, long lift lines and crowded trails indicate a need for more terrain.
Breckenridge wants to add one new chairlift and about 450 acres of terrain, along with a new restaurant at the base of the lift.
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Critics of the proposal have said the resort could accomplish its goals by making improvements within the existing ski area footprint, and have raised concerns about impacts water quality and wildlife habitat.
The town’s draft letter expresses concern over impacts to quality of life for current residents as well as the quality of the guest experience for visitors. Parking is another question mark, as well as the potential need for more affordable housing. The town would like to see these questions addressed as part of the Forest Service study.
Echoing comments from conservation interests, the town’s letter suggests that the Forest Service evaluate other options for easing congestion at the ski area, including potential development of the cirque between Peak 8 and Peak 9, and the possibility of creating more trails in areas that are likely to be decimated by the pine beetle infestation.
The town also wants the resort to address the social impacts to backcountry skiers. Peak 6 is a favored and easily accessible playground for touring skiers, who claim the loss of terrain can not be easily replaced.
On the environmental side, the town is asking the Forest Service to address cumulative impacts to wildlife species and habitats that have been protected in the Cucumber Gulch preservation area, especially lynx, mountain lion, moose and snowshoe hare habitat, along the mixed spruce-fir forest on the higher slopes of Peak 6.
The agency also needs to look at the overall effects of the Peak 6 project on forest and watershed health in the drainages encompassed by the proposed expansion.
DeFord said the ski anticipates partnering with the Forest Service to carefully analyze all those issues. A wildlife biologist under contract with Vail Resorts has been studying the Peak 6 area for the past several years to help design the expansion in a way that’s sensitive to the environment.
Town council members previously called for an independent environmental study in the area, especially as it relates to potential impacts to Cucumber Gulch.