Steamboat Ski Area turns to helicopter to remove beetle-killed pines |

Steamboat Ski Area turns to helicopter to remove beetle-killed pines

Crews working for Calcon Constructors have completed installing exterior siding and rock work on the new Four Points Lodge dining area at 9

— Saw crews are busy this week felling beetle-infested lodgepole pine trees near the midway elevation at Steamboat Ski Area in preparation for the arrival of a helicopter as soon as Sept. 9 or 10 to begin stacking, or "yarding," the logs on the ski area.

Ski area spokesman Mike Lane confirmed that in order to establish safety perimeters around the logging project, the U.S. Forest Service has issued a closure for the area that encompasses the Burgess Creek drainage between the Pony Express lift in Pioneer Ridge and the Four Points lift from the bottom of Bar-UE down to the lower terminus of Storm Peak Express.

"It is imperative that the public understands the dangers associated with an operation of this scope and abide by all closures and signs and keep clear of the impacted areas," Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., was quoted as saying in a prepared statement. "As we continue to grow and expand our on-mountain activities, the mitigation and logging work we do during the fall season becomes an important part of our winter preparations and future summer planning."

The logging is being undertaken to reduce the dangers associated with the many dead, dying and weakened trees that could fall on people and equipment at the ski area. Steamboat is fortunate to have a diverse forest including fir and aspen trees that are not affected by the beetles and will not be impacted by the logging operation.

The closure remains in effect through Oct. 30 or until the work is completed, and no biking, hiking, hunting or other access is permitted in the closure area. The ski area saw similar operations take place nearby in October 2012.

Removal of logs by helicopter makes the process environmentally lighter on the land by limiting the ground footprint and decreasing the potential for soil erosion and sedimentation to streams, Lane pointed out.

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Lane confirmed in an email that trucks will haul the yarded logs down the mountain to city streets, and the public needs to be aware of traffic on the Why Not trail that winds down the lower mountain. From there, the loaded log trucks will travel down Burgess Creek Road to Mount Werner Road.

Mountain improvements

The star of summer improvements on the ski mountain is unquestionably the new Four Points Lodge, where crews under the supervision of Calcon Constructors have finished up installing exterior siding and stone work. However, Steamboat also is going to considerable length, laying almost 2 miles of new pipeline, to increase the efficiency of its snowmaking system, Lane said.

The new pipeline runs up the middle of Heavenly Daze, the largest intermediate ski trail leading down the mountain from Thunderhead Peak. The position of the pipeline in the middle of the run is being counted on to accelerate snow production, according to Lane, because the 52 tower snow guns spaced 75 feet apart will be able to be swung from side to side. That will allow crews to cover both sides of the trail without the need for a complete equipment reset.

The new Heavenly Daze pipeline comprises 6,250 feet of pipe, and another half-mile of pipe will be replaced throughout the Yoo Hoo beginner area.

Steamboat's veteran crew of snow grooming operators also will have some new toys to play with this winter in the form of two Prinoth Bison grooming machines powered by six-cylinder, 355-horsepower engines.

Logging elsewhere in the forest

As well as watching for logging trucks on Burgess Creek and Mount Werner roads, Routt County motorists need to be aware of logging activities in North Routt, according to Larry Sandoval, of the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest.

The Whale Tail timber sale is seeing log hauling on secondary Forest Service roads like 415.1 off Forest Service Road 550 near the Wyoming border. Forest visitors west of Steamboat Lake should expect to encounter logging and hauling operations on and around Forest Road 42 this fall, according to Sandoval. And on Rabbit Ears Pass, FSR 311 will remain closed during hazard tree removal until Sept. 14.

There are bypasses for popular trails in that area.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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