US Forest Service tentatively OKs Keystone Resort’s lift-served expansion into Bergman, Erickson bowls

A U.S. Forest Service rendering outlines Keystone Resort's plans for beginner and intermediate trails in Bergman Bowl, which would be accessible via a proposed new chairlift, pictured in red.
U.S. Forest Service/Courtesy photo

DILLON — The U.S. Forest Service on Friday, Nov. 6, tentatively OK’d Keystone Resort’s plan to expand lift service into Bergman Bowl, including the addition of trails, a chairlift and other infrastructure.

Acting White River National Forest Supervisor Lisa Stoeffler said in a statement that the Forest Service’s draft decision on Keystone’s planned lift-served expansion “strikes a balance between protecting sensitive resources like wetlands while providing expanded recreational and economic opportunities at the popular ski resort.”

The plan includes the construction of 13 ski trails in Bergman Bowl as well as three ski trails and gladed terrain in neighboring Erickson Bowl. The resort also plans to construct a detachable chairlift and a ski patrol hut in Bergman Bowl to serve skiers in the area, which is within resort boundaries and was previously accessed by paid snowcat or hiking.

The plan also includes snowmaking infrastructure that would be added across 20 acres on proposed beginner and intermediate ski trails in Bergman Bowl. The Outpost Restaurant also would be expanded.

In the statement, Forest Service spokesperson David Boyd said the resort’s goal is to better use existing terrain within its operational boundary, to redistribute skiers from the front side of the mountain to less-crowded areas accessed off the back side, as well as to increase terrain variety for skiers and riders of all ability levels.

Keystone Resort’s plan must be approved by the Forest Service because it operates on the White River National Forest under a special-use permit. Keystone spokesperson Loryn Roberson said there is not a specific timeline to begin work on the project.

The release of the draft decision Friday initiates a 45-day objection period. Boyd said the objection period is only for people who provided comments on the original proposal.

“It’s not another public comment period,” Boyd said. “If we don’t get objections during the 45-day period, then we’ll move forward with the final decision as described. If we get objections, there could be changes to the decision based on what’s in the objection.”

Boyd said the Forest Service’s decision contains only a few changes from what the resort proposed initially.

“We made a number of changes to reduce impacts,” Boyd said. “The tower alignment was rerouted to avoid wetlands. There is less tree-cutting and the amount of glading is reduced from the original proposal to lessen impacts to wildlife.”

The Forest Service first shared the resort’s expansion plans in April, kicking off a lengthy process to review the plan and study environmental impacts.

The proposed detachable-quad lift serving 555 acres in Bergman and Erickson bowls is reminiscent of Keystone’s sister Vail Resorts property, Breckenridge Ski Resort, where a lift-served expansion less than a decade ago improved access to terrain above tree line on Peak 6 in the Tenmile Range. Breckenridge’s Peak 6 is where intermediate skiers and riders can find groomed runs and a high-Alpine experience more traditionally reserved for advanced skiers and riders.

The new Bergman Bowl lift is expected to bring such an experience to Keystone guests. Skiers and snowboarders would be able to ride two beginner trails and a web of intermediate trails down from above tree line in Bergman Bowl. The beginner and intermediate terrain then would go through trees to the base of the new lift and existing intermediate terrain on North Peak.

The collection of new trails would be located on the moderately sloped terrain in Bergman Bowl that, since its opening in 2003, was previously accessible only by paid snowcat or hiking. The old cat track would be the location of the primary green beginner run.

The proposed lift’s capacity would be 2,400 people per hour, with a top terminal located above tree line at an elevation of 12,300 feet. The bottom terminal would be below tree line at an elevation of 11,300 feet.

Currently, the Forest Service reports about 25-50 skiers and snowboarders hike into Bergman Bowl each day while the Keystone Adventure Tours snowcat service shuttles 400-600 guests into Bergman and Erickson bowls each week when it’s open. The Forest Service added that all of Keystone’s intended plans in the expansion are for winter use only.

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