Wednesday, March 30, 2011
■ Send the U.S. Forest Service an email with the subject line “Steamboat Ski Area Summer Trails” at firstname.lastname@example.org.
■ Drop off comments or mail them to Kent Foster, of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District, at 925 Weiss Drive, Steamboat Springs, CO 80487.
Steamboat Springs The good news for local mountain bikers is that organizers hope the first trails of the planned downhill mountain bike park at Steamboat Ski Area will be shovel-ready by early July.
What exact changes will come to the mountain’s trail network remains up for debate, however, and after spending the winter considering information gathered during fall’s opportunity for public comment, the U.S. Forest Service has released a new plan and is again asking for input.
“We’re still moving forward,” said the Forest Service’s Kent Foster, recreation manager for the Hahn’s Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District. “If we keep moving forward with the proposal, the timeline would allow for some trail construction to occur this summer. That was the goal from the get-go.”
The Forest Service’s newest modifications to the ski area’s proposal — developed with public input and after internal studies on the potential environmental effects of the new system — limit the scale of the initial work on the mountain and address some of the concerns raised during the previous public comment period.
The Forest Service proposes to approve 20 miles of new trail instead of the 36 originally projected to go along with the 28.4 miles of existing trail. Four new downhill-only trails of varying degrees of difficulty still would be included, as would a short, beginner connecting trail leading downhillers to the base of the ski area.
“Our hydrologists said, ‘Let’s develop a few trails and see if there are effects before moving all the way forward,’” Foster said.
Two proposed bunches of trails — a pack of expert trails near Concentration and Vagabond and a pack of blue trails north of Concentration — are being shelved for the first go-round.
“This opens the door for us to begin building trails to get us started,” said Jim Schneider, Steamboat Ski Area vice president of skier services. “Assuming everything is copacetic with those trails, we can keep going.”
Other proposed changes from last summer’s plan include increased focus on maintaining uphill biking options while nixing potential uphill-only trails that were expected to bracket the downhill park.
“We heard from the public,” Foster said. “They want to be able to bike uphill, too, but maybe let’s not limit it to uphill-only, but make it multiuse. Riding uphill you can get tired or hurt, and we don’t want to make someone have to keep going if they don’t want to.”
The proposal also still suggested turning Creekside trail into a downhill-only venue, a change after years of controversy because the trail — used heavily by downhill bikers — always has officially been two-way.
Although the overall proposal isn’t expected to be green-lighted until midsummer, Foster said he expected Creekside to be downhill-only as soon as the trails open late this spring.
The Yoo Hoo trail also will be converted to downhill-only status from the top of See Ya to the base.
Creekside would remain downhill-only until the completion of the first real downhill trail. A 2.5-mile intermediate trail leading from the top of the gondola to the base of the ski area, tracing downward near the existing Valley View trail, is expected to be the first constructed.
An intermediate jumps trail with features for all levels of riders also is proposed on the mountain. A 2.5-mile expert trail is planned to run to the bottom of the Thunderhead Express chairlift, and a beginner downhill trail will connect the Thunderhead lift area with the ski area base.
“We’re just excited to get going as soon as everything gets approved,” Schneider said. “We’ll be ready to go as soon as we have the final word.”
— To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com