The U.S. Forest Service is set to begin public review for Sunlight Mountain Resort’s plans to build a new chairlift and expand expert terrain on the ski area’s East Ridge.
It will also likely seek categorical exclusion from a full environmental review, due to the small amount of forest land that would be disturbed by the expansion, according to a Forest Service news release issued on Monday.
The White River National Forest’s Aspen-Sopris Ranger District has scheduled a public meeting from 5-7 p.m. Feb. 4 at the Glenwood Springs Library to answer questions, as the agency begins taking public scoping comments on the proposal.
Sunlight announced last year that it is launching a $4 million expansion project on the far eastern side of Compass Peak, including about 100 acres of new expert skiing terrain and a new chair lift serving the East Ridge area.
Already this season, Sunlight expanded the existing Aligator Alleys, Deception, Defiance, Perry’s Plunge and other double-black diamond runs. The expansion is proposed to continue later this year and next with new runs to the east of the current ski area boundary, along with the new lift and a pit toilet.
The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District has scheduled a public meeting to discuss Sunlight Mountain Resort’s expansion plans, from 5-7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Glenwood Springs Library.
Forest Service and Sunlight Mountain Staff will be on hand to answer questions.
Sunlight’s East Ridge offers both intermediate and advanced ski terrain that sits both on private land near Four Mile Creek and on public land administered by the White River National Forest.
According to the Forest Service, approximately 2,000 feet of the new lift would be on forest land. The top terminal is proposed to be located between the existing Rebel and Beaujolais ski runs.
In addition, about three-quarters of an acre is to be cleared for catwalks to provide access to the Rebel and Grizzly trails from the top of the new lift.
The terminal would include an operator building, an engine drive, motor room and unloading area, requiring about a quarter of an acre to be cleared.
A small pit-type outhouse would also be constructed adjacent to the top terminal for public and operator use.
“The purpose of this project is to improve guest access to intermediate and advanced ski terrain,” according to the proposed expansion plan. “There is a demonstrated need to provide direct access by eliminating the use of the Tercero, Segundo and Primo chairlifts. The new lift would also provide access to underutilized trails, increase access to repeat users and improve visitor experience.”
Upon completion of the project, all disturbed areas surrounding the new structures would be revegetated, according to the plan. Construction staging and assembly areas are to occur primarily on private lands.
“Due to the minimal amount of new disturbance, the Forest Service is considering categorically excluding this project from analysis in an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement,” according to the release.
As a result, the public scoping period is the opportunity for those interested in or affected by the proposal to identify any significant issues before that decision is formally made.
Written comments may be submitted by mail, fax, email or in person by Feb. 23.
Written comments should be submitted to: Scott Fitzwilliams, c/o Devon Cotsamire, Mountain Sports Administrator, Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, 620 Main Street, Carbondale, CO 81623, or hand-delivered between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday-Friday. Faxed comments can be sent to 970-963-1012.