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Snowmass backcountry plan criticism

ASPEN – Some local environmentalists want the Aspen Skiing Co. to “save” Burnt Mountain before it tries to save the world.The Skico is regarded as a ski industry leader in environmental causes and recently made headlines for educating customers about global warming and lobbying for legislation to reduce greenhouse gases.But a handful of local residents suggest the company needs to examine its own actions closer to home. They objected to the Skico’s proposed expansion of ski terrain on Burnt Mountain, which is on the east side of Snowmass Ski Area.The Skico wants to thin trees and expand a catwalk so more of Burnt Mountain can be used to give its customers a feel for the backcountry. Up to 500 acres of terrain would be added to the ski area on the east side of Long Shot, the only trail currently developed on Burnt Mountain.The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing the environmental impacts of the proposal. As part of that review, it accepted written comments from the public. Out of about 20 comments, including a petition signed by 16 people, all but two opposed the expansion onto Burnt Mountain, according to a review of the comments by The Aspen Times. One person wrote in favor of the expansion while one urged more study.Expansion-foe Rian Taylor of Aspen warned the proposal would turn the backcountry tranquility of Burnt Mountain into “Busy Mountain.” He also suggested the Skico would tarnish its reputation by proceeding. “Why turn a green-friendly company into a target for anti-environmental criticism, especially when true backcountry lovers are opposed?” Taylor wrote.Jim Stone of Aspen wrote that a truly environmentally friendly company would avoid the expansion onto Burnt Mountain.”The Aspen Skiing Company desires to be a good steward of the environment and educate the public about our mountain ecology,” Stone wrote. “To this end I hope the company will respect the natural values of the public land it leases under its permit and decide not to use this part of the permit …”Aspen Skiing Company chief executive Pat O’Donnell turned down a request for an interview.The company received preliminary approval from the Forest Service in 1994 to expand onto Burnt Mountain and build a chairlift after a bitter fight with environmentalists. The current plan doesn’t include a chairlift.Vail, Colorado


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