Vail Mountain will lose some dead trees |

Vail Mountain will lose some dead trees

Edward Stoner
Vail Correspondent
Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

BEAVER CREEK, Colorado – Your favorite tree run might look a little different in coming years.

A Forest Service plan calls for cutting thousands of dead and dying trees at Vail and Beaver Creek over the next decade or so.

But officials hope the plan will ultimately help regrow trees on the mountain and ensure that forests stay healthy.

The plan encompasses 3,066 acres of the 3,849 acres at Beaver Creek, and up to 5,000 acres of the 12,226-acre permit area of Vail. That’s the maximum amount of land that could be affected, but work won’t occur on all of that land.

“I think there’s going to be some differences when skiing trails,” said Roger Poirer, winter sports program manager for the White River National Forest. “Some of these tree islands are going to change. Some are going to end up skiing differently. But I think the ski areas are really keeping the skiing experience the same.”

Next Thursday, the plan will be presented at an open house at the Holy Cross Ranger District Office in Minturn. The Beaver Creek plan will be discussed from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the Vail plan will be discussed from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Vail Resorts has worked with the Forest Service at length to develop the plan, said John Garnsey, co-president of Vail Resorts Mountain Division and chief operating officer of Beaver Creek, adding that he is pleased with the proposal.

“While it is premature to speculate which specific treatment options will be selected for areas affected on each mountain, the purpose of each plan is to promote a healthy forest and keep the skiing experience largely unaffected,” Garnsey said in a statement. “For example, the Forest Service has committed to provide Vail Mountain with 1,500 lodgepole pine saplings this summer so that we can begin reforesting certain areas in order to accelerate regeneration of the forest.”

The proposal could be approved later this year following an “environmental assessment” by the Forest Service, and work would begin in the spring of 2011. The work would be done over the next 10 years, largely by Vail Resorts employees.

The dead and dying trees would be cut to reduce fire danger and risk of falling trees. The work aims to diversify the ages and species of trees.

The need for the project stems in large part from the mountain pine beetle epidemic. According to Forest Service calculations, some 70 percent of lodgepole pines larger than 5 inches in diameter on Vail Mountain are dead, while 50 percent of such trees on Beaver Creek Mountain are dead, said Don Dressler, snow ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross District of the White River National Forest.

But the project wouldn’t just address lodgepole pines. It would also combat infestations of mountain spruce bark beetle and seek to make aspen groves more healthy.

Methods that could be used include:

• Cutting and removing dead and dying trees, possibly in clear-cuts.

• Cutting and removing trees, possibly in small groups or clear-cuts, to regenerate forests.

• Planting trees.

• Applying pesticides to save “high value” trees from bark beetles.

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