Copper’s new on-mountain master plan looks good in most cases |

Copper’s new on-mountain master plan looks good in most cases

A public review is under way for Copper Mountain’s new master plan of on-mountain improvements. This is not to be confused with the review of Intrawest’s build-out plan for the base area.

We think Intrawest is pretty much on target for its on-mountain improvements, although we have several reservations.

On the front side of the mountain, the resort proposes glading in two areas, the 4-7 glades to the skiers’ right of the lower part of the Super Bee lift and the proposed Powerline glading to the skiers’ right of the Far East trail, in the Alpine lift node.

From an unabashed skiers’ point of view, we think anything that improves the tree skiing at Copper is welcome. Copper offers much, with the exception of tree skiing. In the areas proposed, the trees are thick and hardly of a biodiverse stand. Glading, while improving tree skiing, should also improve forest health.

We do have reservations, however, with glading to the extent of allowing snow grooming machines in the area. That seems like overkill.

Another proposal is to replace the Sierra lift and move it to the left of its current uphill alignment. That would put the top terminal on Union Peak, saving most of the hiking now involved to ski or board a special powdery place at Copper.

Minus the hike, we think too many people will pound Union Peak. The snow will not hold up.

Copper also wants to put its snow vehicle yard and maintenance shop on a roughly two-acre site off the top of the American Eagle lift. Currently, snow vehicles are based near the Alpine lot on private land. The trouble is the snow machines spend a lot of time, fuel and emissions getting to their work areas.

The new location would be more efficient for the resort, and the environment, but we question the use of public land for just an intensive purpose. Copper is considering a site lower on the mountain, on land it owns just above the Center Village, but we know residents of nearby condos have hit the resort hard about putting so much noise close to their homes.

Still, we think this proposal deserves closer scrutiny before committing public land.

Perhaps the biggest, newest proposal is to construct a lift to the top of Tucker Mountain in the resort’s back bowl. The lift is supportable, but it will take good snow years to make the investment worth it.

As for snowmaking, Copper want to expand capacity by about 314 acres. The White River Forest Service supervisor, Martha Ketelle, believes expansion of about 156 acres as more environmentally friendly and less consumptive of water.

Snowmaking, while important for the early season, is tough on the environment, pressuring streams and prolonging snow coverage in the summer. Ketelle has the better idea, and it still gives Copper a chance to improve the early-season offerings.

Public comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that addresses Copper’s master plan are due at the U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District Office by Sept. 8.

Opinions published in this space are formulated by members of the Summit Daily News editorial board: Michael Bennett, Jim Pokrandt, Jason Starr, Rachel Toth, Reid Williams, Aidan Leonard, Shauna Farnell and Martha Lunsky.

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