New Ski Areas Proposed in Colorado

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Silverton, CO, Dec. 7--The Durango office of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has recently heard from two different companies interested in developing lift-served skiing near Silverton, a tiny mountain hamlet between Durango and Ouray. The two proposals involve operations on both privately owned and public land administered by the BLM.

According to San Juan County Administrator, Bill Norman, lift-served skiing could prove an economic boon for Silverton. The town relies heavily on summer revenues generated by tourists who ride the scenic narrow gauge railroad from Durango.

"Silverton could use a boost," said Silverton resident Andy Gleason, a forecaster with the Colorado Avalanche Information Center. "I'd certainly rather see it developed for skiing than for a snowmobile area," he said. "But personally, I'd hate to see our favorite powder stashes skied out," he added, laughing.

Gleason said, as he understands, one of the proposals calls for an "extreme" ski area near Gladstone, with no beginner terrain. This proposal, from Aaron Brills' Bozeman-based Core Mountain LLC, could be modeled after New Zealand's ski club-style facilities, with a single lift on private land providing access for guided excursions in a backcountry environment.

Brill sent a letter of interest to the BLM in October, but has since withdrawn it. BLM officials are waiting for a revamped proposal, according to BLM planner Gary Thrash. County Administrator Norman said Brill might approach county planning authorities with his proposal in the next few weeks.

The second proposal was submitted by Jim Jackson of Aspen and his company Velocity Peak, Inc. Jackson's preliminary plans involve an aerial tramway from Silverton to Storm Peak, just north of town.

The BLM has asked Jackson to submit a master development plan to determine the nature and the extent of the proposal, Thrash said, explaining that Jackson hasn't responded in writing, but has told the agency verbally that he will submit such a plan.

According to a story in the Durango Herald, Jackson is familiar with the area from his days as a speed skiing impresario. Storm Peak was informally known as Velocity Peak in the 1980s, when it was the site for a series of speed skiing competitions held from 1980 through 1991.