November 22, 2016 — Forest Service officials this week gave a thumbs up to a controversial proposal to expand Colorado’s Arapahoe Basin ski area, including adding amenities designed to attract more summertime visitors.
The expansion will add about 338 acres to the Rocky Mountain resort and will include new chairlifts and an “aerial adventure” tour that will operate in the summer months.
“The decision will enhance both the winter and summer recreation opportunities at A-Basin,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, supervisor of the White River National Forest, in a news release. “(T)he summer aerial activity will reach a wide audience and provide experiences for an increasingly diverse recreating public.”
Resorts in Colorado and elsewhere have in recent years pushed to build amenities such as zip lines and mountain bike courses for recreational use outside of the traditional skiing season.
White River National Forest officials are also considering a proposal to add summer attractions to the Snowmass Ski Area. Owners of that resort want to build a zip line and a “mountain coaster” that would zoom visitors down a track in cars resembling bobsleds.
The White River National Forest, the most visited in the nation, is home to 11 major ski areas that attract more than 7 million users each year.
The Arapahoe Basin expansion will open a previously undeveloped area known as the Beavers to expert-level skiing. Representatives of a group opposed to the expansion, Friends of Arapahoe Basin, pointed to the cumulative impact of ski area expansions in the area on animals including Canada lynx, boreal toads, bighorn sheep and migratory birds.
In a protest letter filed with the Forest Service last summer, members of the group said such creatures “are being marginalized in Summit County as the ski industry pushes harder and further into the wild forest.”
Fitzwilliams, however, said Forest Service officials took those and other comments to heart. Due to environmental concerns, he said, the agency approved a scaled-down expansion alternative. The resort’s owners initially hoped to add another ski trail, cut down more trees and build more roads.
Alan Henceroth, Arapahoe Basin’s chief operating officer, said construction should start next spring and continue over the next two summers.