Bill Gossard uses a chainsaw to cut down a lodgepole pine tree Friday at the Steamboat Ski Area alongside the Main Drag ski trail. Last week, the ski area began a 100-acre logging project to remove beetle-killed lodgepole pine trees.
Steamboat ski area logging continues
US Forest Service to do majority of work in the next 6 weeks
A Timbco is used to remove a beetle-killed lodgepole pine tree Friday from along the Main Drag ski trail at the Steamboat Ski Area.
Daily trail closures, detours and updates will be available online through the Trail Status Map at Steamboat.com, by calling 970-879-7300, or by stopping by the Information Center in Gondola Square.
Schedule of work
Over the next two months, the logging project will travel across the mountain during the following stages resulting in numerous trail closures:
■ Phase 1 in the area of Main Drag, Boulevard, Giggle Gulch, Big Foot, Eagles’ Nest, Beeline and Yoo Hoo
■ Phase 2 along Lower Why Not
■ Phase 3 between Vagabond and Rudi’s Run
■ Phase 4 on Surprise and Why Not
■ Phase 5 along BC Ski Way
■ Phase 6 (time permitting) a large pocket of timber below So What
Steamboat Springs At times the task seemed daunting, but tree by tree, acre by acre, a new forest is emerging at Steamboat Ski Area.
Last week, the ski area embarked on its largest logging operation yet to clear out beetle-killed lodgepole pines. The U.S. Forest Service logging contract includes 100 acres, and a majority of the work is expected to take place during the next six weeks, resulting in numerous hiking and biking trail closures.
3rd summer of logging
The ski area had tried to ward off the beetle infestation starting about 10 years ago, said Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. Preventative measures included wrapping the trees in plastic with insecticide.
“It became obvious about four years ago that wasn’t going to work, so we quit, and it immediately turned red,” Allen said.
He remembers when U.S. Forest Service timber manager Andy Cadenhead delivered the news to the ski area that they were going to lose their lodgepole pines.
“It was actually him who came to us one day and said, ‘Party is over boys. They won,’” Allen said.
New forest emerging
The Steamboat Ski Area is lucky in some ways. Its forests aren’t dominated by lodgepole, unlike ski areas like Winter Park and Breckenridge.
“We’re pretty fortunate that we have a diverse forest,” Allen said
He said there were about 250 acres of lodgepole at Steamboat Ski Area.
Logging began in 2009 and focused on removing trees that were a potential falling hazard to the ski lifts. The focus then shifted to heavily trafficked areas where falling trees were a safety concern.
The last phase of the latest logging project will likely not be completed this year. Allen anticipates two more years of logging to remove the dead lodgepoles. In the end, he thinks removing the dead trees will have cost the ski area $500,000.
Safety was the main reason for taking out the dead trees, Allen said, but they were also an eyesore, and he is pleased with how areas look where they have been removed.
“The aspen are quick to take over,” Allen said. “The young trees have grown in there because they have more light.”
It also added skiable terrain.
“Skier’s right off Ted’s Ridge is going to be real nice,” Allen said.
The logging has not resulted in a new named trail, but that could change as the last phase of this project removes a large pocket of trees below So What on the hillside south of the start of the Pony Express and Storm Peak Express lifts.
“We might even get a named trail out of that,” Allen said.
The trees removed from the ski area will be turned into lumber and pellets for pellet stoves.
The ski area has contracted with HDR Logging out of Kremmling to remove the trees.
“It’s a tough job,” HDR co-owner Harry Williams said. “It’s steep. It’s going to be slow. The biggest thing is keeping everybody out of our way so we are safe about it.”
He said the timber is being taken to pellet plants and to a sawmill 250 miles away in Montrose.
As beetle-killed logs continue to flood the market, Williams is fortunate he owns the truck used to move the logs. Still, the value of the timber alone is not enough to make logging profitable, especially when the mill is so far away.
“The fuel prices are running about 50 percent of what the truck makes,” Williams said “Then you’re paying the driver about 20 percent.”
A tree comes down during logging operations Friday at the Steamboat Ski Area.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com