Vail expansion plan gains support
Submit your comments to the Forest Service electronically, or write to Scott Fitzwilliams, c/o Max Forgensi, Mountain Sports/Special Uses Administrator, White River National Forest, P.O. Box 190, Minturn, CO 81645.
MINTURN — A proposed expansion of Vail Mountain received mainly positive feedback from the approximately 60 people who attended a public meeting on the issue on Thursday.
The meeting was called by the White River National Forest’s Eagle and Holy Cross Ranger District as a kick-off to a public scoping period on the idea, which would add 42 acres of skiable terrain to Golden Peak in an effort to expand the training and competition area used by Ski & Snowboard Club Vail. The public comment period will run through May 1. District Ranger Aaron Mayville told the group Tuesday the Forest Service wanted to hear all comments — pros, cons, ideas and suggestions.
“We will then take all those comments under consideration and kick off our formal analysis, where we’ll analyze what are the environmental and social impacts of this project moving forward,” Mayville said. “It’s really important that we hear your feedback, whether it’s support, opposition, an idea, a change, anything like that. We really do value those comments moving forward in the analysis process.”
Mayville said he talked to roughly 30 people on Wednesday.
“The general mood of folks I’m talking to is supportive,” Mayville said. “Overwhelmingly supportive.”
The first person to approach Mayville with comments Thursday was Pete Seibert Jr., son of Vail Mountain’s co-founder.
Seibert said his father was supportive of the idea to expand Vail Mountain to the top of Golden Peak, where a section of aspen trees has already been removed and is visible from Gondola One and many other places in Vail.
“When I got on the board [at Ski & Snowboard Club Vail] I talked to my dad about this idea,” Seibert told Mayville. “My dad loved the idea.”
Seibert said since the 1989 World Alpine Ski Championships, which were held at Vail and Beaver Creek, a greater need has developed for an International Ski Federation-sanctioned race course at Golden Peak.
“You can’t really be about ski racing once every 15 years and expect people to take you seriously,” Seibert said. “You need to be about it all the time, and this helps us there.”
Seibert also said that moving the moguls course to Golden Peak from the center of the mountain at Cookshack near Chair 2 would be a boon for recreational skiers as well as competitive mogul skiers.
“When I was on the board, we heard about the calls to the director at the time, about the interaction between the public and the kids,” Seibert said. “So to get them off of Cookshack and over [to Golden Peak], I think is a great safety thing for the club and a great safety thing for the public.”
World Cup moguls skier and Edwards resident Tess Johnson attended the meeting and filed a formal comment on the matter.
“I said a couple things about the ski club and moguls skiing specifically,” Johnson said after the meeting. “First, this expansion would help my team and the freestyle program have easier access to the course, so we could get a lot more training done. Right now we commute to and from Chair 2 every day and it takes up to an hour total and that time is cut from training. Also, the current venue isn’t available until after Christmas, so until then we practice on a half-length course on Golden Peak, right next to the alpine program, at times it can be pretty dangerous, training right next to the downhill and super-G skiers.”
Johnson also said the course would add a level of visibility to the sport of mogul skiing that most areas of the country do not have.
“It could add a lot more attention to our sport,” she said. “Moguls skiing doesn’t have a lot of publicity, and I think this could help, especially since Vail is such a big resort in the country.”
Alpine ski racer Nellie-Rose Talbot, a member of the U.S. Ski Team currently recovering from injury, also attended the meeting. Talbot said the expanded training areas would spur more success from younger athletes who currently do not experience as much race variety as their European counterparts.
“It will create more terrain, so that when we’re traveling in Europe and in the Southern Hemisphere, we’ll be able to adapt and be ready for different terrain … steeper with different turn angles,” Talbot said. “That is a thing that you see a lot of kids in this region and from Vail having a harder time with.”
‘NEW TRAIL WOULD BE THEIR GYM’
Alpine racer and World Cup overall champion Mikaela Shiffrin said she wished she could have attended the meeting but was unable to make it due to another commitment. She did offer a statement on the matter, though, saying the expansion would create a more efficient training area, similar to the one used at Burke Mountain Academy, where Shiffrin attended high school.
“When people wonder why I started my first World Cup race at only 15 years old and already have won the overall [World Cup] title at 22,” Shiffrin wrote. “Well, now you have a key part of the answer. The quality of the training … with a setup like the one [Burke Mountain Academy] has, with the perfect length trail, surface lift to accommodate it and focused environment was essential to my development and success. It’s no secret, and it’s not rocket science. That little training arena was so far superior in efficiency to what I have experienced anywhere else in this country or internationally for tech training, that I was bound to have the best and most productive experience per hour on the hill and bound to end up on the World Cup at such a young age. That really is it. That trail was our gym, and we made the best use of it that we possibly could. With this expansion, you are looking at providing the local kids with a very similar experience. This new trail would be their gym.”