Breckenridge looks to install a new lift on Peak 7, pending Forest Service approval
BRECKENRIDGE — The U.S. Forest Service’s Dillon Ranger District announced on Friday that it is now accepting comments on Breckenridge Ski Resort’s proposal to add a chairlift to its existing Peak 7 terrain.
The lift, pending U.S. Forest Service approval, would transport skiers from a middle portion of the intermediate Monte Cristo trail, just below the base of the Zendo Chairlift, back up to the top of Peak 7, in between the existing Independence SuperChair and the Pioneer Crossing building.
In the Forest Service’s scoping notice describing the project, forest supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams says the ski resort’s purpose for the project is to improve access to existing lift-served intermediate terrain on the resort’s Peak 7 and to improve skier circulation between Peaks 6, 7 and 8. The forest supervisor said the new chairlift would be located within existing lift-served terrain within the resort’s Special Use Permit area with the Forest Service.
“The need for improved skier circulation between Peak 6 and Peak 8 is highlighted by the existing wait times and congestion at the Independence SuperChair at the base of Peak 7,” Fitzwilliams said in the notice. “The proposed Peak 7 lift strives to better serve intermediate skiers by providing improved access for repeat users on Peak 7 terrain, including several currently underutilized trails.”
Fitzwilliams also said in the notice that the proposed lift may further improve skier access to Peak 8 by eliminating the need to ski down to the Independence SuperChair for guests traveling back from Peak 6.
“Specifically,” Fitzwilliams said in the notice, “this lift would capture guests traveling from Peak 6 and reduce skier traffic on the busy Monte Cristo trail.”
The proposed lift, which would be a detachable chairlift with a capacity to serve 2,400 guests per hour, would require the installation of a top terminal near the Independence SuperChair and Pioneer Crossing that would require grading.
Other environmental disturbances for the new lift would include grading and vegetation removal to construct the bottom terminal and additional vegetation removal for portions of the lift corridor passing through tree stands.
Also, to help construct the bottom terminal area, a powerline would be installed on a new proposed access route that departs from an existing road along the resort’s existing Lincoln Meadows trail. As for the top terminal, construction and maintenance access would be provided by existing access roads aside from a short spur access road to be constructed within the top terminal grading footprint.
Fitzwilliams writes further that the proposal has been designed to avoid impacts to wetlands, as wetland surveys conducted last month identified and flagged wetlands in the project area.
The forest supervisor also said in the notice that, based on resource information gathered through Aug. 1, he believes this specific project falls within certain Forest Service federal regulations that may exclude the project from environmental assessment and/or environmental impact documentation. The forest supervisor cited the applicable Federal Regulation Code as one that reads “Approval, modification or continuation of minor special uses of National Forest System lands that require less than five contiguous acres of land.”
The supervisor added in the notice that he doesn’t know of any extraordinary circumstances with the project that would affect this determination.
“Scoping comments along with a complete resource analysis will determine whether this project can be categorically excluded,” Fitzwilliams further said in the notice.
Summit County ski resorts and areas have seen several new chairlifts across its hills in recent years. Currently, Copper Mountain Resort is working to install its new Tucker Mountain Chairlift, with plans to open it for the 2019-20 season. The new three-person fixed grip lift would rise 100 vertical feet to a height of 12,200 feet to provide skiers and riders with lift-service to previously hard-to-reach expert, high-alpine terrain off of the resort’s back side. The plan is for the new lift to run each day from the bottom of the Blackjack chair to the top of The Taco chute and will be complemented with a ski patrol warming hut and new restroom facilities at the base of the Mountain Chief chair in Copper Bowl.
Though the new Tucker Mountain lift is the only new lift set to open for this coming season, several county ski resorts and areas opened new lifts last year, including the new-and-improved American Eagle and Flyer lifts at Copper Mountain. The new Eagle is a lift offering eight-person gondola cabins and six-person chairlifts while the new Flyer became the longest bubble chair in the world.
Over at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, the new Beavers high-speed quad lift opened at the start of last season, for the first time offering lift-serviced skiing to The Basin’s Beavers and Steep Gullies terrain expansion. And over at A-Basin’s Continental Divide sister ski area, Clear Creek County’s Loveland Ski Area at Eisenhower Tunnel, the new Chet’s Dream high-speed quad lift opened at the start of last season.
The most recent chairlift addition to Breckenridge came in the winter of 2017-18 with the opening of the Falcon SuperChair, a high-speed six-passenger chair servicing Peak 10’s advanced terrain.