VAIL — The project that’s been two years away for the last three decades might now indeed be two years away, or less.
Vail Mountain’s first expansion since Blue Sky Basin received authorization from the Forest Service on Friday, Nov. 9, as the Golden Peak Improvements Project final environmental impact statement, along with a draft record of decision, was published by the White River National Forest.
In it, Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams wrote that the project gives Vail Mountain and the Forest Service an opportunity to provide world-class training and competition at Vail Mountain while enhancing the safety and efficiency for the general public.
“I am approving the (Golden Peak Improvements Project) because it best meets the project purpose and need to meet the growing demand at Vail Mountain Resort’s Golden Peak for developed competition terrain and to improve the guest experience and training venue across the ski area by providing separation between user groups,” Fitzwilliams wrote.
In a news release, the Forest Service wrote that project implementation is expected to begin in summer 2019, and that the decision authorizes the construction of one surface lift (T-bar or similar design) and approximately 42 acres of new ski trails for women’s downhill and men’s super-G courses, a moguls course and skier cross course; various maintenance and storage facilities; infrastructure to support snowmaking; an access road for construction; staging areas and logging decks for construction materials and timber and vegetation removal; and surface smoothing/grading for new ski trails and drainage management.
EXPANSION OR COMPLETION?
While many refer to the project as the Golden Peak expansion, Pete Seibert Jr., son of Vail Mountain founder Pete Seibert, calls it the Golden Peak completion.
“There’s a reason why there was an old lift line cut to the top of (Golden Peak),” Seibert said on Saturday. “It was always the intention to get there … I was on the Ski Club Vail board for 16 years, and we were always two years away from getting that done.”
The section of trees that has already been removed, which Seibert referred to, would be the location for the new surface lift.
The 42-acre expansion would add about 760 vertical feet of skiable terrain to Golden Peak, according to the plan, and the lift would be roughly 1,870 feet in length and able to transport about 1,200 people per hour.
“I believe that the approved projects will enhance the visitor experience of competitors and the general public alike by expanding the competition and training terrain and providing adequate separation between the general public and the athletes,” Fitzwilliams wrote. “When Golden Peak is not being actively managed for training or competitions, the terrain will be accessible to the general public.”
Ski & Snowboard Club Vail athletes are expected to be the primary users of the new area.
“Ski & Snowboard Club Vail is thrilled to learn that the U.S. Forest Service has released a favorable draft decision with regard to the Golden Peak Improvement Project,” said SSCV Executive Director Kirk Dwyer. “We are excited to be entering into the final stage of the approval process and would like to thank Vail Resorts and the U.S. Forest Service for their support over these many years.”