Beetle battle brings barriers to Breckenridge
BRECKENRIDGE, Colorado ” One ski resort is testing a new way to make sure wayward skiers don’t ruin attempts to revive forests.
Breckenridge Ski Area and the U.S. Forest Service have built double-height snowfences to protect fragile saplings planted by the service as it works to revive lodgepole trees from deadly beetles. The resort says it may test different types of fences to see what will protect the saplings best.
“To what degree can we keep people out of a certain area? The idea is to see what works,” said Breckenridge chief operating officer Lucy Kay.
Kay told the Summit Daily News that resort officials are thinking about how to encourage re-growth after the pine-beetle epidemic has run its course.
Beetles are expected to kill up to 90 percent of the mature lodgepoles in Summit County. Ski resorts that depend on healthy lodgepole breaks are planting saplings now to prevent bare slopesides. But the saplings need protection from skiiers to grow, and resorts have found that simple rope fences don’t do the trick.
Kay said Breckenridge considred several types of barriers but for now is trying the double-height snowfences, which start 5 feet above the ground to allow wildlife such as lynx cats to pass through.
The resort is also trying a plea to its skiiers and snowboarders.
Snow ranger Shelly Grail told the newspaper that she’s working on signs to explain to skiiers why they need to stay out of certain areas. Grail said that in addition to helping saplings, the new fences help set aside habitat for elk, lynx and other wildlife.
If the fences work, they could be used on Peak 6, where the resort is proposing to add a new lift and several hundred acres of terrain.
Rick Thompson, a biologist who has studied the ski area for more than 10 years, said scientists want to know if the barriers help wildlife coexist with skiiers.
“It’s pretty good habitat,” Thompson said of the Peak 6 area.