Crested Butte Ski Area Lays Out Plans for Expansion

skiierCatherine Tsai, The Associated Press, February 14, 2013

DENVER (AP) — Crested Butte Mountain Resort's new master development plan includes visions of adding about 440 acres and two new lifts on its east side.

One goal: to entice more visitors to stay longer at the out-of-the-way destination resort, which is smaller than the Vail, Telluride and Steamboat ski areas. The resort also aims to make itself more appealing to intermediate skiers and snowboarders, not just experts, who will bring their families.

"We've done surveys the last three to four years. The number one comment from guests is always, 'Can you add more terrain?'" said John Sale, the resort's director of planning and sustainability. On average, customers stay for about 3 1/2 days, which is a shorter than what peer resorts boast, he said. "Once people make the effort to get here, they would love to have additional ski pods to ski."

The mountain also wants to boost year-round activities so that summer activities make up 30 percent of total revenue, up from roughly one-fourth of overall revenue today. To that end, it envisions adding several miles of biking and multiuse trails.

The U.S. Forest Service is reviewing whether to accept the plan, which lays out a vision of how the resort might grow over the next five to 10 years, rather than an exact outline of what will happen.

It includes adding 440 acres in the Teo Park and Drainage area. It would also add two lifts, a warming hut and ski patrol station in that area. The changes are intended to let intermediate skiers and riders take a chairlift to get to runs with more of a remote, backcountry feel without having to take an expert black diamond trail.

"A lot of times people affiliate Crested Butte with extreme terrain. We've got plenty of it. At the same time, the intermediate skier can get that experience without having to huck off double blacks to get there (after the proposed changes)," Sale said.

Other lifts would be upgraded to better distribute visitors on the mountain and improve access to terrain.

If the resort completes all the proposed winter upgrades, its daily "comfortable carrying capacity" would rise 42 percent to 8,440 skiers.

The High Country Citizens' Alliance, which touts environmental sustainability, is seeking more details on the plan but also is voicing concerns. It is urging Forest Service officials to consider potential impacts to lynx and other wildlife.

Alliance executive director Greg Dyson said there should be stronger oversight of summer trail maintenance and on how the resort uses its water rights.

"These issues are resolvable in a way that protects the local pristine landscape, which is ultimately the draw for those of us who live or play here," Dyson said in a written statement.

Daniel Marshall, executive director of the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce, noted the resort's importance to the town's winter economy and wished resort officials well as they plan for the future.

"Any time you do something on Forest Service or public land, it's a process. It's not going to happen tomorrow. They'll have to do environmental impact studies," Marshall said. "It's great that they're planning on doing better things."


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