Timber removal begins on Golden Peak as Vail readies for expansion

New surface lift will add alpine racing terrain accessible from Chair 6 mid station

Timber removal is underway on Golden Peak in Vail, as visible in this photo from June 29, 2019.
John LaConte |

VAIL — That cut you’ve always noticed running up the side of Golden Peak will soon become a surface lift, and the additional tree cutting required to make the area into a downhill and super-G venue is now underway. 

The lift will be a T-bar or similar design, and the project will also include the installation of additional snowmaking in areas of Golden Peak approved by the U.S. Forest Service.

The project was strongly supported by son of Vail Mountain founder Pete Seibert Jr., who said getting access to the top of Golden Peak has been a goal since his father’s day, when the existing cut was made.

“It was always the intention to get there,” he said.

Detractors of the project said the reason it didn’t happen in those days is the same reason they objected to the project this time around: fear of a mudslide running down the side of Golden Peak which faces directly north. The concerns, specifically those of the Northwoods Condominiums’ homeowners association, prompted White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams to put a contingency on the moguls portion of the proposed 42-acre expansion, requiring a mudflow analysis be completed for the lands above the Northwoods development.

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Aaron Mayville, the U.S. Forest Service ranger for the Eagle-Holy Cross district, said the National Forest is hoping that analysis will be completed yet this summer. 

“The approval for the moguls course will be contingent on conducting that mudflow analysis,” Mayville said. 

Mayville said while the day-to-day work is being handled by Vail Resorts, the Forest Service will monitor the project’s compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act decision. 

Snowmaking project also underway

Construction is also underway on a separate project to add 262 acres of new snowmaking coverage, 32.5 miles of snowmaking pipeline, and 14 new valve stations to Vail Mountain, primarily on upper-elevation runs surrounding chairs 2, 3, 4, 7 and 11.

Mayville said the Forest Service will be giving periodic notices to proceed with various phases of the project, and will be monitoring both projects to ensure Vail Mountain is “in compliance with best management practices, the best way to put in water bars, etcetera.”

“It’s pretty standard,” he said. “But these are a couple big projects, so we’re definitely involved.”

In a statement, Vail Mountain Vice President of Mountain Operations Greg Johnson said the recent snowmelt and warmer temperatures allowed the projects to begin.

“While the snowmaking expansion project will be primarily focused on the upper mountain, there will be impacts to the mid and lower mountain out of Vail Village, and we ask that guests respect all construction closures and obey all posted signs and warnings,” Johnson said. “Throughout the eastern portion of the front side of Vail, guests may encounter trail closures or reroutes, construction equipment, or other heavy machinery at any time. Before accessing the mountain, guests should check for biking and hiking trail closures and detours at or by calling the Trails Hotline: 970-754-3049.”  

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