Construction crews at the Steamboat Ski Area are completing utility work and re-grading of the Stampede, Lil' Rodeo, Preview and North Headwall trails. Topsoil is being redistributed in preparation for sowing native grasses. At the same time, officials are consulting on the best way to manage dying stands of lodgepole pines that have turned some of the ski slopes orange.

Photo by Tom Ross

Construction crews at the Steamboat Ski Area are completing utility work and re-grading of the Stampede, Lil' Rodeo, Preview and North Headwall trails. Topsoil is being redistributed in preparation for sowing native grasses. At the same time, officials are consulting on the best way to manage dying stands of lodgepole pines that have turned some of the ski slopes orange.

Trees could fall within 15 years

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Native grasses

Elsewhere on the lower ski slopes, Allen said, heavy equipment is completing the re-grading of the Stampede, Lil' Rodeo, Preview and North Headwall trails that was interrupted early last winter. Crews are redistributing topsoil in preparation for seeding with native grasses.

— The dying lodgepole pine trees that have added a distinct band of orange and red to the lower slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area attracted a brain trust this week.

Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp., said he met with representatives of the U.S. Forest Service and Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board to discuss a long-range plan for management of the dying lodgepoles. They are infested with pine beetles.

Specifically, the group took a close look at dying trees on a slope known as Rough Rider Basin and along the Thunderhead Express chairlift. They also scrutinized the condition of dying pines bordering the Right-O-Way trail.

"We'll be dealing with the effects of the devastation for the next 20 years. So I think everyone has to understand that, yes, we're reacting to the problem, but it will be a long-term prescription for managing the situation, as well," Allen said.

Kent Foster, recreation program manager with the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District of the Forest Service, said the meeting presented an opportunity for a philosophical discussion. Attendees talked about how to protect the public, manage forest health, meet the ski area's goals and even how to keep the portion of the forest on the ski area aesthetically pleasing in the future.

"It was a think tank," Foster said of the meeting. "Steamboat really has a lot more options than other ski areas."

That's because a significant portion of the beleaguered lodgepoles are in mixed stands of timber along with spruce, fir and aspen trees. One consideration, Foster said, is whether it is desirable to encourage recruitment of aspen trees, for example, in stands where the dying lodgepole eventually will fall down.

"Research suggests that 90 percent of the dying lodgepole will fall to the forest floor within 15 years," Foster said.

Rough Rider Basin, served by a small surface lift, currently is maintained as a place for young children to play on skis out of the traffic flow of mature skiers swooping down off Lower Concentration toward Bashor and Maverick's Super Pipe.

The Forest Service's Janet Faller, who administers the ski area's permit, would work closely with Allen's staff to identify trees that need to come down this year and those that can remain in place for another year or longer, Foster said.

It's a tricky process, he said, because removing trees can have unintended consequences. Frequently, a stand of lodgepole offers protection from the wind. Removing one or two trees can cause an unraveling of the stand. That was the case at the Hinman Campground, which the Forest Service logged last year to remove suspect trees. About 70 trees were left standing, and many of them blew down this spring, Foster said.

Another consideration is whether wholesale removal of dying trees could create the perception of new skiable terrain that could lead the public into unsafe areas, Foster said.

"It's a real head-scratcher," he said.

- To reach Tom Ross, call 871-4205

or e-mail tross@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

elkeye 5 years, 9 months ago

I think that much of the lower mountain is within the city limits and not part of the National Forest. If true, the City should hand deliver the June 25th memo to the Ski Corp. and start the 15 day clock on all of its dead and dying trees within the the city limits.

Ski Corp. should have been the first property owner to receive notice to remove the dead and dying trees on their property (within the city limits).

The risk of fire is simply to great for the situation to be ignored by the City.

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digit1964 5 years, 9 months ago

Sorry,,, the city limits is not where the dead trees are.. they start just outside the limits on the ski area.

ANOTHER WIN FOR SKI CORP!!!!!!

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elkeye 5 years, 9 months ago

Digit1964...what about all those dead trees along "Right-O-Way" and skiers left of "Lower Valley View"?

Are those in or out of the city limits?

Rough Rider may be just outside the city limits but I'm not so sure about "Giggle Gulch" and below. Parts of "Bashor Bowl" may well be in the city limits (e.g. "Shorty" Bashor's old homestead)!

Take a look at the city's GIS mapping service and you will see that city limit appears to run South from the top of Burgess Creek Road for about 3200 ft or so, then goes West for about 1366 ft and then South for more than 5300 ft.

How far "up" the mountain is the North-South city boundry (extending southerly from the top of Burgess Creek Road)? About 5,000 linear feet from the base of the gondola!

How far is it from the base of the gondola to the top of the gondola? Good question but the new gondola cable is 18,000 feet (or less) in length so divide it in half and I would think 9,000 feet (or less).

It's time for the City to get serious about the fire danger within the city limits from the bark beetle epidemic and enforce the requirement that property owners remove dead or dying trees.

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digit1964 5 years, 9 months ago

No, the city limit boundary is at the top of headwall... you would be surpised how little of the area is in the city..

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digit1964 5 years, 9 months ago

Also you should stop concerning yourself with the ski area "area" .. The big blow up (and loss of life) will be in the sanctuary... Take a drive in there and see how well our rich neighbors have fire proofed their property....

I can hear the sizzle now!

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424now 5 years, 9 months ago

If you think we have it bad here head out to Winterpark. That there is a frightening view. Something like 50% if not more dead in the heavily wooded areas.

There should be a class on falling trees free to any and all that are interested in doing so.

Open up the mountain to locals that want to get into the fire wood business.

We need to clear all that dead wood out of the Boat and the mountain. Wouldn't do well to have a charred mountainside to greet all our Tousistas

I never thought I would say this,

Call the loggers!

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SilverSpoon 5 years, 9 months ago

For those who saw "inconvenient truth", there is only one person who can be responsible for this epidemic. AL GORE He said the beetles would creep up the mountains as temperature rose.

I really miss those -40F days for 4 days in a row that used to kill pine beetles. The times are-a-changing. I sure hope they don't pull the plug on steamboat 700, those cookie cutter homes would look nice with beetle kill accents.

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