Forest Service wants input
Steamboat Springs — Some residents were curious while others were anxious when the U.S. Forest Service hosted an open house Thursday to gather feedback concerning improvements at Steamboat Ski Area.
Already, experts are at the ski area analyzing information about wildlife, plants, wetlands and soil to prepare a study that will identify the environmental impacts the proposed improvements could have.
“As the process goes forward, it will be interesting to see what environmental concerns come out,” resident Paul Randolph said.
The proposed improvements include two major components.
The ski area wants to build an additional gondola that would take beginner skiers to a new learning area at Bashor Bowl and Rough Rider. A new lift would be built at the learning area, along with a restaurant.
The ski area also wants to build an additional lift in the Pioneer Ridge area that would make it easier for skiers to access 355 acres. At the bottom, a bridge would be built to bring skiers over Burgess Creek.
All the improvements are within the ski area’s existing permitted boundary.
SE Group is undertaking the environmental analysis, and the ski area is paying for it.
“It’s not general public money going in for private gain,” Forest Service mountain sports ranger Erica Dickerman said.
About a dozen members of the public attended the open house, including Mike Johnson, a second homeowner who has been coming to Steamboat Springs for more than 30 years.
Johnson expressed concerns about moving the ski school learning area up the mountain, because parents and grandparents would have to ride the gondola to watch.
“When my son has kids, I would like to be able to stand and watch them ski,” Johnson said.
Johnson was supportive of the new Pioneer Ridge lift and the associated easier access to terrain.
“Anytime you put in something that’s new, it brings people back,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Randolph were both hopeful the character of Steamboat would be maintained with the improvements.
“I absolutely don’t want a Keystone, a Breckenridge or a Denver Disneyland,” Randolph said.
Resident Rich Danter, who started coming to Steamboat in the mid 1970s, was supportive of moving the ski school, as it would ease congestion.
“We need to get the crowd out of the base area a bit,” Danter said.
The additional lift at Pioneer Ridge originally won environmental approvals in 1996, but the lift was never built, and the study needs to be updated. Danter was hopeful the ski area’s parent company, Intrawest, would pull the trigger on funding the project.
“Who knows if it will happen,” Danter said.
There are multiple periods of time when the public will be invited to comment on the projects and the study. Information is available at the project website, tinyurl.com/h9mp2jd.
Dickerman said public comment is most helpful at the beginning of the environmental analysis.
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Things have changed since Joe Ghiglia and Rick Bear graced the stage at the Ratskeller, located in the basement of Inn at Thunderhead in Ski Time Square, in the 1970s.