New lift and trails OK’d at Copper
SUMMIT COUNTY – Vail’s neighbor ski resort, Copper Mountain, has been given the go ahead to build a new chairlift on its Tucker Mountain area along with new trails elsewhere, among other expansion projects. Tucker Mountain consists mostly of extreme terrain and can be reached from Copper Mountain’s back bowls. The area is accessible for part of the year by snow cat.
Many of the new trails elsewhere on the mountain will be what are known in the ski industry as “glades” – or in wooded areas – that will require removal of trees. Glades are typically more difficult runs. The projects, which also include significant expansion of snowmaking capabilities, were approved this week by the U.S. Forest Service after six years of research, which various officials have described as one of the longest-running studies ever done by the agency in Colorado.”I’m excited about the new skiing and snowboarding opportunities and the efforts to bring resort infrastructure into a better balance with current use levels,” said Rick Newton, the district forest ranger in Dillon. “The mountain needed ways to update distribution and circulation of their guests.”
Copper Mountain general manager Gary Rodgers said the resort is still evaluating its plans and couldn’t say how soon any of the new trails or lifts would be built.The new Tucker Mountain lift has been eagerly anticipated by some powder hounds and loyal Copper skiers. But the watchdog environmental group Colorado Wild criticized the lift , saying it was as an unnecessary expansion that could harm the rare lynx that have been reintroduced to the Colorado mountains. Lynx have been an flashpoint in nearly every ski expansion proposal, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has consistently concluded that new trails, increased grooming and snowmaking activities have the potential to hurt the rare cats.
Expansion at Copper Mountain has the potential to destroy 103 acres of forest frequented by lynx in the winter, the wildlife service said. But the forest service has said the ski area can operate in a way that won’t bother that cats. The animals will still be able to roam across the mountain when skiers aren’t around and find places to hide when the slopes are crowded. Nobody expects lynx to make their homes right on the ski slopes, said White River National Forest ecologist Keith Gietzentanner. The idea, rather, is to make sure the threatened cats can move through and around the slopes to areas where there is plenty of food.Tracking data shows the forests around Copper Mountain, including Vail Pass to the west, as well as the densely timbered west flank of the Tenmile Range, are used on a regular basis by lynx.