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Copper Mountain to Keep on Growing

Summit County, CO, Jan. 24--There's a lot going on at Copper Mountain Resort, in Colorado. This fall, the resort broke ground on a major expansion of the base village and a new lodging development.

On top of that, owner Intrawest is proposing a three-to-five-year schedule of upgrades for the ski mountain, including new terrain, new lifts and a significant expansion of snowmaking capacity.

Resort officials and Forest Service delegates unveiled the expansion proposal at a public meeting, earlier this month.

The plan calls for new gladed-expert trails on the east side of the mountain, as well as a new run to the north of Resolution lift. A connection from Storm King to the Resolution area, as well as some new runs leading from the alpine terrain around the Mountain Chief lift to the far western side of the Timberline pod, are also in the works.

Lift upgrades include the conversion of A lift to a high-speed quad and an extension of the lift farther uphill to improve access to the east-side terrain. The resort also proposes realigning S lift to improve access to the summit of Union Mountain.

A new lift running near the east ridge of Tucker Mountain would provide access to the little-used terrain on that peak's north side, heretofore only accessible via a traverse and hike. Beginner skiers would get a gondola to replace the K lift, carrying them to a new learning area.

Also on deck is the addition of about 400 acres of new snowmaking, which would bring the total to about 780 acres, second in Colorado only to Keystone, which can cover about 890 acres with man-made white.

The goal is to cover at least two trails in each lift pod with man-made snow in order to disperse skier traffic and to provide terrain diversity. Several trails in the Timberline pod are also slated for snowmaking, with plans for extensive terrain features.

"The resort's snowmaking plans would require a two cubic-foot-per-second increase in water diversions from Ten Mile Creek," said Copper chief Spenst. The resort has water rights to augment flows in the creek with water from an upstream reservoir, so the additional diversions would have no effect on instream flows.

Some of the planned upgrades have already been approved by the Forest Service, and work could commence as early as next summer, according to Spenst.

"It depends on our financial performance. If we have another year like thislast one, where revenues just covered expenses, maybe we'll wait one moreyear," he added.

An informal on-mountain poll shows that Copper skiers and boarders appear to be in favor of the proposal, though a handful of individuals said they don't want to see lift access to Tucker Mountain--now only shared by those willing to huff it. Similarly, some said plans to glade trails on the east side of the mountain will likely increase traffic in an area that now harbors hidden powder stashes long after storms pass through the area.

The Forest Service hopes to draft an environmental impact statement by September 2000. Forest Service officials say environmental concerns include potential impacts to lynx habitat, wetlands issues, forest habitat fragmentation, and water quality impacts.

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