By Matt Kroschel
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – Opposition to a plan that would expand the boundaries of the Arapahoe Basin Ski Area is growing louder in Summit County.
A newly-formed group called Friends of Arapahoe Basin is raising concerns over habitat loss for protected lynx, and possible risks to recreational skiers.
Longtime Summit County resident and well-known backcountry user Danny Ferrari contacted CBS4 with concerns about the project.
“Enough is enough; we don’t think this will help keep skiers safe. More have died in boundaries than the backcountry, so that claim by the people who are pushing for this is totally false,” Ferrari told CBS4’s Matt Kroschel.
A-Basin operates on a 2002 special permit from the U.S. Forest Service and hasn’t expanded much since it opened 70 years ago. The White River National Forest, where A-Basin is located, released a draft Environmental Impact Statement concerning the ski area’s proposed projects. The public comment period ended Monday.
“Being 19 years old and moving up here and being able to ride outside those gates turned me into the person that I am today,” Ferrari said. “I don’t want to see my kids not have that same type of access.”
Expansion would incorporate an area called the Beavers — already popular backcountry terrain — into A-Basin’s boundary, and develop that terrain with ski trails and a chairlift.
Additional projects include replacing the Molly Hogan and Pallavicini chairlifts, grading around the top of a chairlift, construction of the Zuma Access lift, removal of the Norway chairlift, and adding a canopy tour and challenge course, according to plans provided for public comment.
The proposed action would expand A-Basin’s terrain by 492 acres, 338 acres of which would be in the Beavers.
Ferrari has safety concerns with the plan to open up the very steep rocky area to more users.
“I don’t think the average recreational rider, skier, snowboarder should be out there,” he said. “It’s very dangerous, and do I think that putting in a lift is going to make it safer? The statistics say it’s not. The statistics say it’s actually going to make it worse.”
But A-Basin operations managers say it will actually keep users safer.
“Since 1982 there have been half a dozen avalanche fatalities out there,” an A-Basin official said. “We think that the public will be much better served if the area is part of a formal avalanche mitigation plan.”
The Forest Service’s decision could come later this year.