Short and steep at Beaver Creek
BEAVER CREEK ” Beaver Creek will bring a quick shot of adrenaline into its boundaries this year with its expansion into the Stone Creek area.
“It’s steep. It’s got some big cliffs. It’s the real deal, for sure,” said Mike Brumbaugh, a longtime Beaver Creek skier who said he’s skied the Stone Creek area about 10 to 20 times.
Stone Creek Chutes is 180 acres of black-diamond and double-black diamond terrain at the eastern edge of the ski area. The runs are short and steep, ranging from 400 to 600 vertical feet with pitches of up to 45 degrees. In comparison, from Spruce Saddle down to Beaver Creek Village is 2,100 vertical feet.
Skiers will enter the area from two gates ” one near the top of Cinch Express Lift and one farther down Red Buffalo. Skiers will come out at the bottom of the Rose Bowl lift.
“I would call them more glades than chutes,” said Brumbaugh, who owns Venture Sports in Avon.
There are cliffs there that will be marked “extreme terrain,” said Beaver Creek Mountain spokeswoman Christina Schleicher.
The area has long been popular with local skiers, and it’s been skied more often in recent years. In 1996, the area had 400 visits by skiers a year, the Forest Service said. By the 2002-03 season, more than 1,000 skied there.
Twice that year, skiers were partially buried in avalanches.
In response to safety concerns, the area was added to the ski resort’s permit area in 2002 and the resort asked for permission to build the trails in 2004.
The expansion also means the area will be skied more. That’s a tradeoff for local skiers, but Brumbaugh said the expansion is probably a good thing overall.
“I think it probably makes sense,” he said. “When people are stupid, there’s a wider margin for error.”
He likened this year’s expansion to the Royal Elk Glades expansion off of Grouse Mountain.
“When we heard they were going to open Royal Elk, everyone cried wolf,” Brumbaugh said. “But my perception is that (Royal Elk) has been really well received. It’s good access to get some really good turns.”
And if you want true backcountry skiing, there are still plenty of places to go for that, Brumbaugh said.
The individual chutes won’t be named. The area will be called Upper Stone Creek Chutes and Lower Stone Creek Chutes, Schleicher said.
Most of the construction for the expansion will be on the routes that allow skiers to get in and out of the chutes. The top route will be 4,000 feet long. The bottom one is 3,600 feet long. Crews are clearing about 3.5 acres of trees to make the trails.
The opening of Stone Creek Chutes follows the industry’s trend of adding “backcountry light” ” backcountry-like experiences minus the hiking and added dangers that come outside of ski-area boundaries.
Blue Sky Basin at Vail and snowcat skiing at Keystone are examples. And last year, Breckenridge opened the Imperial Express Lift, which brings skiers to 12,840 feet above sea level on Peak 8.
“People are looking for more of that,” said John Garnsey, chief operating officer of Beaver Creek Mountain. “Even the guests of Beaver Creek ” you might not think so. They’re looking for a little bit of adventure. This provides that.”
The addition boosts Beaver Creek’s terrain from 1,625 acres to 1,805 acres.
As for further expansion of the ski area, Garnsey said the resort may look at downhill skiing at McCoy Park ” the current site of the Nordic center.
“McCoy Park is something that we may look at,” he said. “It’s not something we’re currently looking at.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.
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