A-Basin eyes ‘Zuma Bowl | VailDaily.com

A-Basin eyes ‘Zuma Bowl

Bob Berwyn

Forest Service and Arapahoe Basin officials confirmed last week that they have held informal preliminary talks on a potential expansion into Montezuma Bowl, a large alpine cirque to the south of A-Basin’s existing terrain. The area is zoned for lift-served skiing under the new White River National Forest plan and resort officials said they were trying to get a sense of what they might be looking at in terms of a NEPA analysis should they decide to pursue an expansion.For starters, the resort and Forest Service may do some snow studies in the area, acting USFS District Ranger Mike Liu said. The agency encouraged the resort to consider a pre-NEPA evaluation that would include informal agency comments to identify potential resource issues, as well as public comment to get some feedback from skiers, snowboarders and local residents. Liu said the Forest Service also raised the possibility of offering snowcat-accessed skiing in the bowl as an interim step.A-Basin installed a snowmaking system approved under a recently updated master plan and is looking at several other possible upgrades, including a mid-mountain lodge, renovation of the base facilities and a reconstruction of patrol headquarters near the summit of Norway lift.Record-breaking storm slams Front RangeA juicy upslope storm, fueled by copious Gulf of Mexico moisture, saved its biggest blast for the mountains east of the Continental Divide. Loveland Ski Area reported its biggest-ever 24-hour snowfall total, tallying 26 inches from March 17 to March 18. The area has a 92-inch base with a year-to-date total snowfall of 366 inches. That’s 80 inches above average for the year-to-date and 13 feet more than Loveland garnered all of last season. Resort officials say the best is yet to come, with April, the snowiest month, yet to come.Winter Park reported 36.5 inches during the same 24-hour period, while Eldora reported 34 inches during a 48-hour period ending March 18. Other areas near the Continental Divide also saw heavy precipitation, with Arapahoe Basin registering 32 inches in just over 24 hours and Monarch reporting 23 inches of snow during an 18-hour span.The heavy snow prompted the Colorado Avalanche Information Center to issue avalanche warnings for many mountain areas. The avalanche danger in the Front Range mountains was rated as extreme during and after the storm.Because the slow-moving storm came in from the southeast, the Eagle County resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek didn’t pile up quite as much snow. Vail got 22 inches from Sunday night through Wednesday, and Beaver Creek received just under 20 inches of fresh, somewhat heavy new snow.Lynx at issue in Oregon forest planLynx may be listed as threatened in Colorado, but the state hasn’t yet felt the full effects of that listing as federal land managers continue to drag their feet on implementing any meaningful conservation measures.But in Oregon, a U.S. District Court recently ordered the Forest Service to dump a handful of timber sales proposed for areas of lynx habitat. The case dates back to 2000, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first listed the lynx as threatened. At the time, the Forest Service in Oregon reduced lynx habitat by thousands of acres and approved the timber sales.Environmental groups sued the agency and recently won their case when a federal judge ruled that the management of the forest excluded public involvement and violated the National Forest Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The judge ordered the Forest Service to revise the Wallowa-Whitman forest plan toinclude lynx protections. For more information, contact the Western Environmental Law Center: http://www.westernlaw.org or (541) 485-2471.Aspen SkiCo looks at Hispanic marketThe Aspen Daily News reports that the Aspen Skiing Company is looking to tap into Colorado’s growing Hispanic population by hosting a special weekend festival in conjunction with Radio Tricolor.The &quotSalsa on the Slopes&quot event includes special lift and lodging packages and promoters hope it will grow into a bigger event during coming years. According to the Daily News, it’s the first event organized the SkiCo that’s directly targeted at the state’s Hispanic population. But a senior sales official with the resort company said the Hispanic demographic could be a real contributor to the ski industry, pointing to similar events held in Breckenridge and Copper during recent seasons.The event will be promoted by Radio Tricolor and its parent company, Entravision, a California-based media conglomerate that owns scores of radio stations, television affiliates and newspapers nation-wide.Wyoming NF bars oil, gas drilling for nowThe Bridger-Teton National Forest will prohibit oil and gas drilling on 376,000 acres at least until the forest revises its management plan in a few years, the Jackson Hole News and Guide reports.According to the News and Guide, the decision affects land between the Gros Ventre Wilderness and the Bridger Wilderness. Oil and gas industry officials were reported to be displeased with the no-lease decision, after having looked closely at developing energy resources in the 72,000-acre Hoback Basin and the southern portion of the Upper Green River Basin. Those areas may hold hold 80.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas about a four-year supply for the U.S. according to the News and Guide.Environmental activists said the decision reflects public sentiment for the preservation of natural resources in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. The decision could be challenged in court and the Forest Service said the lands could be opened for leasing in the future if new information becomes available or conditions change.Elk attack by dogs garners citationsThe Aspen Times reports that the Colorado Division of Wildllife (CDOW) has ticketed two dog owners whose dogs attacked an elk. Both men were cited for unlawfully allowing a dog to harass wildlife. The charge carries a potential $274 fine.According to the Times, the CDOW wildlife manager for the area who issued the tickets said he shot the dogs involved in the incident. The same dogs may have previously harassed wildlife in the same area.Hope for high country reservoirs?Along with recent big snows, depleted high country reservoirs could benefit from a decision that could reduce flows at the Shoshone Power plant, on the Colorado River near Glenwood Springs, the Middle Park Times reports. That decision could help fill upstream reservoirs during early spring runoff.According to the Times, Denver Water has proposed compensating Xcel Energy, owners and operators of the Shoshone hydroelectric power plant in Glenwood Canyon, in exchange for reducing the amount of Colorado River water the power plant uses for hydroelectric generation.Green Mountain Reservoir Williams Fork and Dillon Reservoirs could all see added inflows. Denver Water additionally promises to return 10 percent of the water to the West Slope, providing additional water for the Fraser, Blue and Colorado Rivers.– compiled by Berwyn

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