Forest Service study shows mountain coaster would be main attraction at Snowmass
HOW TO COMMENT
Written comments should be submitted to: Snowmass Multi-Season Recreation Projects Draft EIS, Scott Fitzwilliams, Forest Supervisor, c/ o Roger Poirier, Project Leader, 900 Grand Avenue, Glenwood Springs, CO 81601; comments can be hand delivered between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, excluding holidays.
Comment can also be submitted online by using the link at http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49057.
The addition of a mountain coaster slide, a zip line, a ropes challenge course and other summer amenities at Snowmass Ski Area probably wouldn’t attract more visitors to the Roaring Fork Valley but would give visitors additional options when they are here, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
The White River National Forest released its Draft Environmental Impact Statement on Aspen Skiing Co.’s summer use plan Monday.
The study anticipated that Skico’s addition of the summer amenities would draw about 2,000 people per day to the Elk Camp section of Snowmass during summer operations, once all amenities are added.
The main attraction, the study estimated, would be a proposed mountain coaster installed in a timbered area between the Gunn’s View and Sandy Park trails in the Elk Camp section of the mountain. A mountain coaster is an amusement park type of ride where bobsled-like cars run down a track. The cars are gravity fed for the downhill and get pulled back uphill. The proposed course would cover 3,300 feet downhill and 2,300 feet uphill.
The Forest Service analysis said it would attract about 750 guests per day.
In comparison, a network of trails draws an estimated 120 hikers and 120 bikers at build-out, the study said.
The next most popular attraction after the mountain coaster would be a climbing wall proposed at 50 to 70 feet wide and less than 40 feet high. That would draw about 300 users per summer day, the study said.
The Forest Service didn’t name a preferred alternative in the EIS but presented an additional option for the public to consider. That option tweaks Skico’s proposal by eliminating one of three “multi-purpose activity areas” and changes the alignment of a new trail because of potential impacts on wildlife.
The Forest Service alternative would also prohibit Skico from adding nighttime access for summer or winter activities.
While the Forest Service’s Draft Environmental Impact Statements often include a preferred alternative, it’s not unheard of for the document to not identify one, according to Roger Poirier, mountain sports program manager for the White River National Forest.
The studies of the summer amenities plans at Vail and Breckenridge didn’t name a preferred alternative, he said. The Forest Service wanted to let the public comment on the two alternatives and help the agency determine a preferred one, he said.
Resorts have been beefing up their summer amenities to take advantage of the infrastructure by spurring additional business. Skico’s summer activity is focused on the Elk Camp portion of Snowmass. It has steadily added downhill and cross-country biking trails.
The proposal is to add 14.2 miles of new biking trails and 2.4 miles of hiking trails. The Forest Service is eyeing a change that would reduce the new biking trails to 12.7 miles.
“The resorts provide us with a unique opportunity to connect so many people to the national forests in a confined, developed area. This project is a real opportunity to provide nature-based activities and outdoor experiences that cater to a wide range of recreationists,” Poirier said in a prepared statement.
The Draft EIS looks at the proposed activities in detail and analyzes the potential environmental effects. The study has been underway for two years. The public’s input will help the agency make a final decision.
The entire Draft EIS is available for review on the White River National Forest website at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/project/?project=49057. A comment form is included on the website, which allows the public to submit comments on the Draft EIS electronically.
In addition, the Forest Service will host a public open house on the project from 4-7 p.m. Dec. 13 at the Treehouse Kids Adventure Center in Snowmass Village.
There is a 50-day comment period that will last until approximately Jan. 11.
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