Forest Service Seeks Input on Ski Cooper Request
In local ski news, the Forest Service, San Isabel National Forest, Leadville Ranger District is initiating scoping and asking for public comment on relocating a Chicago Ridge snow cat access route from the groomed runs at Ski Cooper to just outside the ski area operational boundary. The public has an opportunity to comment on the proposed project and the scope of the environmental analysis that will be conducted pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Before a final determination has been made, the Forest Service is requesting input from the public on potential environmental impacts of this proposed change.
According to Ski Cooper officials, in order to access the Central Basin Gate for Chicago Ridge snow-cat, guided skiing, the snow cat must travel uphill utilizing groomed runs within the Ski Cooper operational boundary. Adjacent runs funnel skiers and snowboarders onto this route and there are number of areas where skiers and boarders in the trees pop out onto these runs as well. Each snow cat is escorted by a snowmobile, whose operator attempts to spot skiers and boarders coming out of the trees keeping everyone a safe distance from the cat. This sets up an inherently dangerous situation for interaction between skiers/boarders and snow cats/snowmobiles.
The proposed action would move the Chicago Ridge access route to an adjacent area to be outside of Ski Cooper’s operational boundary, and still within their permitted area boundary, as depicted on the map. This would minimize the potential for skier/boarder interactions with snowmobiles or snow-cats. The project would involve clearing some trees on a route which runs through the current Corkscrew Trail which is predominantly a gladed run. Corkscrew would no longer be open to skiers and snowboarders. Tree cutting would be minimized by following and connecting open areas of the trail. As this is strictly an over-the-snow route, no grading or other ground disturbance would occur, according to Forest Service officials.
If it is found that there are no extraordinary circumstances related to the project that may result in significant individual or cumulative environmental effects, it is expected that this project may be authorized by the use of a Categorical Exclusion. If there are no extraordinary circumstances, the proposed action would fall within the category of the “harvest of live trees not to exceed 70 acres, requiring no more than ½ mile of temporary road construction,” as defined under 36 CFR 220.6(e) (12).
Since the U.S. Forest service will no longer provide notice, comment and appeal opportunities for categorically excluded projects, if the above mentioned project is determined to fall into this category, this will be the only opportunity to provide comments about the environmental impacts of the project. Although the objection process would not be available in that case, the final decision will be responsive to project-specific comments.
Here’s how to weigh in: Please submit written comments to Michelle Mueggler Recreation Planner, Leadville Ranger District, 810 Front Street, Leadville CO 80461 or electronically at firstname.lastname@example.org. Readers with questions may contact Mueggler at 719 486-7409 or via e-mail .