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Monday, June 27, 2011
Breckenridge plans Peak 6 expansion

By Madison Kahn
ESPN Action Sports

Breck's Peak 6 will add 550 acres to the resort.

Colorado's Breckenridge Ski Resort has been trying to develop skiing on Peak 6 -- an area located a few miles north of the ski area boundary -- for several years. Despite opposition from environmental groups and local residents, the Forest Service is currently working toward approving the proposal for expansion.

Breckenridge, which is owned by Vail Resorts, originally proposed developing on Peak 6 to the Forest Service in 2007 to give space for an increase in visitor numbers at the resort. If approved, the expansion would cover 550 acres of lift-served and hike-to skiing on the peak -- 68 acres of cleared trails and 235 acres of high alpine terrain. The proposal also includes backcountry access gates, a six-person lift, and a ski patrol warming hut and restaurant.

"We are excited to see the approval process move forward because we firmly believe the Peak 6 project as proposed will greatly enhance the recreational experience for our guests," Breckenridge senior vice president Pat Cambell said in a news release.

Scott Fitzwilliams, forest supervisor of the White River National Forest, says the proposal "accommodates increasing daily visitation levels and reduced congestion."

Pro skier and Breckenridge local Keri Herman says she's excited about the proposed expansion. "You can never have too much terrain," Herman said. "I'm excited to be able to explore more territory around Breckenridge."

Others, however, are less than enthused. According to Paul Joyce, field director of Colorado Wild, a conservation organization based in Durango, Peak 6 development would "eliminate some of the best backcountry skiing in Colorado." Joyce added that the expansion would also have severe ecological consequences for the mountain's remaining wild space, old-growth spruce-fir forests and various wildlife habitats, such as the endangered lynx and marten. "This has just become a marketing tool for the big ski resorts," Joyce said. "What they don't realize is that after a few years all we'll have left is a bunch of ski runs without any forest."

According to Fitzwilliams, the U.S. Forest Service has been working with the Peak 6 task force to address some of these issues. The Forest Service released a draft Environmental Impact Statement of the proposed Peak 6 project on June 10. It discusses the need for the proposed action, alternative options, as well as potential impacts of implementing each alternative. The proposal is currently in the 45-day comment period, after which a final decision regarding the Peak 6 project will be released.