Snowmass will add 63 acres of gladed terrain
The U.S. Forest Service’s approval of a new High Alpine chairlift at Snowmass also grants Aspen Skiing Co. permission to thin trees in six glades geared for skiers and snowboarders ranging from intermediates to experts.
The overall gladed ski terrain within the Snowmass Ski Area boundary will increase from 398 to 461 acres, according to the environmental assessment carried out by the Forest Service. The intermediate gladed terrain will increase from 67 to 93 acres. The advanced gladed terrain will increase from 226 to 254 acres and the expert terrain will go from 105 to 114 acres.
Skico doesn’t have the ability to expand the ski area boundary, so it wants to take advantage of as much of the terrain within the permit area as possible, said Rich Burkley, Skico vice president of mountain operations. The six gladed areas that were targeted in the Skico’s proposal are already skied, but the trees are tight. Skiers and snowboarders must be at the top of their game when they venture in there, he said. Skico will thin deadfall and some live trees to make the areas more inviting.
The gladed areas are:
Sneaky’s Glade, intermediate terrain on skier’s left of the Sneaky’s trail on Big Burn. Trees will be thinned over 14 acres.
Freefall/Glissade Glade, advanced terrain with a steep entry that comes into skier’s right of Garrett’s Gulch. About 9 acres will be gladed between Freefall and Glissade to improve the transition between the areas.
Reidar’s Glade, advanced terrain on the skier’s left of the lower portion of Reidar’s Run on High Alpine. Additional trees will be cleared from the natural glade.
Castle Glade, expert terrain between Baby Ruth and Hanging Valley Glade. Nine acres of glading will open a short shot.
Long Shot Glade, intermediate terrain on skier’s left of the Long Shot Trail on Burnt Mountain. It will add 15 acres of skiing.
Upper Green Cabin Glade, intermediate terrain on the skier’s left of Upper Green Cabin.
“On powder days, these give you another several hundred lines,” Burkley said of the gladed areas.
It won’t happen overnight. The glades will be thinned over the next three to five years, Burkley said. The Environmental Assessment said 30 to 40 percent of the spruce-fir trees will be cleared on 67 acres. Burkley said that’s the high end of the range. Trees will be thinned on a smaller percentage, he said.
Skico’s focus for work this summer will be installing the High Alpine high-speed quad chairlift in a new alignment, tearing out the 30-year-old fixed grip chair and adding snowmaking to the lower half of the Green Cabin trail. It probably won’t get to any of the six glades, Burkley said.
The ride time with the new lift will be reduced from 11 to 5.6 minutes. However, the uphill capacity will remain at 1,200 skiers per hour because chairs will be spaced out further on the newer, faster lift.
The lift alignment will shift to the west, with the lower terminal 1,000 linear feet downhill and northwest of High Alpine Restaurant. The terminal will now be on the Upper Green Cabin trail.
Burkley said he was uncertain how many trees will be removed for the new lift. Scott Kaden, winter sports lead ranger with the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, said a separate office within the White River National Forest is handling the terms of the timber sale. That will determine the estimated number of trees that will be removed for the chairlift. The figure isn’t available yet.
Burkley said the new lift will start on barren ground, enter a sparsely wooded area, go through thick timber and then climb to sparsely wooded terrain again before reaching the top terminal.
Skico will not cut a straight line through the woods for the chairlift, Burkley said. The width will vary and clearing will be done in a way that the width is constantly changing.
“You will not see a straight line when you go up that lift,” he said.
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