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Vail Township Unhappy about Blue Sky Fallout


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Vail, CO, Mar. 8-While the new terrain in Vail’s Blue Sky Basin may be making skiers happy, some local residents are grumbling.

Now that Vail has cut down all the trees to carve out the 885-acre Blue Sky Basin, the resort has to get all that timber-millions of board feet of it–out of the backcountry.

Initially, the resort planned to haul the logs out the back side via a logging road. However, that plan was stopped in its tracks when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) discovered that the road ran through fragile, high-alpine wetlands.

After the EPA and the US Forest Service spent several months surveying the situation, the agencies approved a new plan last month that calls for the logs to come right down the face of the mountain and through the town of Vail.

“I realize that many people in the town of Vail oppose this log haul route,” wrote White River National Forest Supervisor Martha Ketelle wrote in her decision. “As the responsible official, I must decide how the overall public interest is best served.”

The excessive noise generated by the trucks won’t be welcomed by many in Vail Village; however, a compromise between the town of Vail, Vail Resorts and the U.S. Forest Service will at least postpone hauling until after the summer tourist season. The agreement is designed to keep economic and safety impacts in Vail to a minimum.

“It’s not perfect for anyone, but it’s a compromise,” said Porter Wharton III, senior vice president of public affairs for Vail Resorts. “We’re compromising by not hauling in July and August…no one is thrilled about it, but we can live with it.”

Next fall, up to 10 trucks a day will make hauling trips up and down the mountain. More than one million board feet of timber are currently stacked next to ski runs in Blue Sky Basin. Another one million feet will be cut this summer as Vail officials prepare to open the remaining 365 acres of the expansion. Another three to four million board feet is to be felled over the next three to five years before the expansion area is complete. Resort officials predict that they will need more than 1,300 timber hauling trips to complete the job.

Meanwhile, the EPA is still considering heavy fines for the damage done last summer to wetlands. Vail may be forced to pay up to $50,000 a day, for each day the area was disturbed. A ruling by the EPA is expected later this year.

Three lifts and 520 acres in Pete’s Bowl opened for skiing on Jan. 6, in Blue Sky Basin. When the project is completed, the North facing bowls opposite of the existing Back Bowls, will feature four high-speed quad chairlifts and 885-acres of gladed and groomed intermediate and expert terrain.