Summit Lift decision withdrawn | VailDaily.com
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Summit Lift decision withdrawn

Kim Marquis

BRECKENRIDGE – Plans for the Peak 8 Summit Lift at Breckenridge Ski Resort are hanging in the breeze like a stalled chairlift.Dillon District Ranger Rick Newton withdrew his approval of the lift Friday – two and a half months after he approved it – because agency officials said Newton did not have the authority to make the decision.The environmental assessment has been forwarded to the White River National Forest supervisor’s office in Glenwood Springs. “The agency has been working on localizing decision making processes; we thought we were there as an agency, but obviously we’re not,” Newton said Monday.He called the situation “awkward.”Deputy White River Forest supervisor Don Carroll said in a prepared statement that because of the project’s “long-term commitments” on land management, the forest supervisor will make the decision. The situation leaves the ski company wondering about a construction timetable, which was set to begin this summer, company spokeswoman Emily Jacob said.”While ski resort officials are not certain about a timeframe for this decision, they are hopeful the project will still be completed this summer,” the resort said in a prepared statement.The $4 million lift would be the highest in North America and open up terrain that is currently only accessed by hiking. Hike-to terrain opened by the lift would include the Imperial Bowl and Whale’s Tail. Skiers and riders would still have to hike to the Lake Chutes and Peak 7.Newton’s January approval was opposed by the Backcountry Skiers Alliance, the Wilderness Workshop and a list of local skiers, who joined Colorado Wild in March in filing an appeal.Colorado Wild executive director Jeff Berman said the Forest Service move to change decision-making authority raises eyebrows. He questioned why authority issues would arise now, “when a decision on an appeal is about to be made.”Berman suggested that the agency would have to reopen the process to public comment.Breckenridge resident Mike Zobbe who joined the appeal, said he hoped Newton’s withdrawal would mean closer scrutiny by the Forest Service.”Rather than fast-tracking this thing, I hope they will take a good look at the points in this appeal and get hard answers to the questions that have been raised,” Zobbe said. The agency does not have a good feel for the number of people who currently hike the terrain, Zobbe said, and whether they would be happier to preserve the backcountry experience.Newton did not know who at the Glenwood office would make the decision or when, or whether more information and public comment would be collected.Maribeth Gustafson, the newly appointed forest supervisor for the White River, started in her position this week.A call Monday to the forest supervisor’s office was not returned.Kim Marquis can be contacted at (970) 668-3998, ext. 249, or at kmarquis@summitdaily.com.What’s proposed? — The Breckenridge Ski Resort wants to build a new detachable quad chairlift to within 170 feet of the top of Peak 8 to serve advanced bowls and chutes now accessible only to hikers. The top terminal would land at 12,830 feet. Lift capacity would be about 600 to 800 riders an hour. Pending final approval, construction was to start this summer.– The resort also wants to replace the current fixed-grip double-seated 6 Chair with a detachable quad using the existing alignment and terminals. It would double capacity to 2,400 riders an hour. The 6 chair serves terrain on the lower flanks of Peak 8.Vail, Colorado


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