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Tucker Mountain to get lift

BOB BERWYNsummit daily news
Summit Daily/Kristin Skvorc
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SUMMIT COUNTY After more than six years of stop and start studies, the U.S. Forest Service has approved an extensive slate of projects at Copper Mountain Resort, including a new lift on Tucker Mountain, re-alignments of existing lifts, new trails, glading and snowmaking, an expansion of Solitude Station and a new mid-mountain maintenance facility.The agency approved significant new snowmaking for the Timberline Express area, with tree thinning for glade skiing and riding slated around Union Meadows, the Super Bee and Fremont Glades. The Alpine Lift could be replaced under the plan, while the Sierra Lift could be lengthened and re-aligned.Despite the drawn-out study, Forest Service officials said they were confident that the scientific information is up to date. Various officials have described it as one of the longest-running studies ever for the Forest Service in Colorado.Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton said the agency did a cover-to-cover review to ensure all the information was valid and viable.Im excited about the new skiing and snowboarding opportunities and the efforts to bring resort infrastructure into a better balance with current use levels, Newton said. The mountain needed ways to update distribution and circulation of their guests.Copper Mountain general manager Gary Rodgers said the resort is still evaluating implementation plans and couldnt say how soon any of the new trails or lifts would be built. But he said that in the near term, snowmaking and other improvements in the Union Creek teaching areas will be a high priority.The Forest Service formally launched the required studies with a scoping notice in late 1999. The study was put on hold a few years later when the White River National Forest began revising its management plan.Resource issuesWhen the forest plan was finalized in 2002, the agency and the resort revamped the proposal to comply with significant changes to the plan. Chief among those were new standards and guidelines relating to stream health that affected snowmaking plans, Newton said. Issues related to management of lynx habitat also made the study more complex, he added.A summary of the Environmental Impact Statement shows that some of the proposed snowmaking was removed from the plan due to concerns about stream impacts. The decision also authorized Copper to increase its diversions from Tenmile Creek from five cubic feet per second (cfs) to seven cfs.Pieces of the proposal that drew attention in the early stages of the process included the new lift to the top of Tucker Mountain, as well the location of a lift and vehicle maintenance facility.The new Tucker Mountain lift has been eagerly anticipated by some powder hounds and loyal Copper skiers. But the watchdog environmental group Colorado Wild panned the lift as an unnecessary expansion and expressed concern about impacts to lynx habitat.Colorado Wild director Ryan Demmy Bidwell hadnt yet seen the approval documents, but said that, based on briefings with former director Jeff Berman, the group may consider appealing part or all of the Forest Service decision. The approval is subject to a 45-day appeal period.Tucker Mountain accessFinal plans for construction of a new access road between Highway 91 and the Tucker Mountain lift are still subject to negotiations with the adjacent private property owners. The road is needed to provide emergency egress from the area. As another option, the resort could use the existing access road from the saddle near the top of Union Peak, the Forest Service decided.Rodgers said the resort is still evaluating the lift access options.The Forest Service also approved a new two-story maintenance shop with a 20,000-square-foot footprint near the top of the American Eagle chair. Early comments on the proposal raised questions about this location, suggesting that private land at the base would be a more appropriate site.Newton said the Forest Service approved the mid-mountain facility because it is a more efficient site for snowcat dispersal, saving on fuel. He said the location doesnt set any new precedent, explaining that many ski areas have maintenance facilities on national forest land. Best management practices and stringent mitigation requirements are included as part of the approval to minimize impacts from the shop, he said.Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at bberwyn@summitdaily.com.

LiftsSierra Lift lengthened by about 790 feet, with the top terminal 150 feet higher and 710 feet to the southeast of the existing terminal to improve access to Union Bowl.Alpine Lift upgraded to a capacity of 2,400 skiers per hour and lengthened by 930 feet in its current alignment, improving access to Solitude Station and the front side, as well as circulation on the east side of the mountain.Tucker lift construction, at 3,300 feet in length, 1,410 vertical feet, with a capacity of 1,200 skiers per hour.TrailsThinning in the 4-7 Glade between Formidable and Treble Cliff by removing about 30 percent of existing trees in over 13 acres in three trail footprints.Powerline Trail 3 will be a new, ungroomed and gladed, 4.2-acre trail in the Alpine Lift pod. About 50 percent of the existing forest cover will be removed. North Cabin and Upper Cabin Chute trails (total 11.2 acres) will be north and west (skiers left) of existing Cabin Chute Trail.South Copper trails (3.6 acres) to be developed to skiers left of existing Lillie G Trail in the Blackjack Lift pod.Fremont Glades 2-5 to be widened by removing about 15 percent of the trees at the bottom of the chutes to enable easier egress.Blackjack to Tucker ski-way developed as a connection between the base of the existing Blackjack Lift and the approved Tucker lift.FacilitiesSolitude Station, near the top of the American Eagle Lift, to be expanded from a current footprint of 9,500 square feet to a maximum footprint of 19,000 square feet. Indoor seating capacity will grow from 450 to 800 seats; outdoor seating capacity from 150 to 300 seats. Water and wastewater facility upgrades included. New 1,900-square-foot warming hut near the top of Rendezvous Lift with 125 indoor and 125 outdoor seats.New maintenance shop near top of American Eagle Lift with a maximum footprint of 19,000 square feet. New 1,000-square-foot ski patrol hut on Tucker Mountain. Snowmaking148.2 acres of additional snowmaking, requiring an additional 127.5 acre-feet of water diversions annually. Coppers water diversions from the Tenmile Creek drainage will total 529.8 acre-feet annually.New or additional snowmaking for about 13 trails: Carefree, Cabin Chute, Highline, Formidable, Oh No, Ore Deal, Too Much, Easy Feelin, American Flyer, Windsong, Soliloquy, Retreat and Flyer-Timberline Traverse.Snowmaking was not approved on trails in the Wheeler Gulch drainage, including Sluice, Coppertone, Liberty and Collage. The Forest Service said anticipated impacts to the Wheeler Gulch watershed could not be offset by available mitigation measures.Additionally, the Forest Service decision authorizes upgrades to existing snowmaking systems and the burial of snowmaking pipelines.How to CommentThe Copper Mountain Resort Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision is subject to a 45-day appeal period ending in mid-March. The documents are available as a hard copy on a limited basis and also on CD at the Dillon Ranger District visitor center on Blue River Parkway (Highway 9) in Silverthorne. Call (970) 468-5400 for more information.


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