US Forest Service denies Crested Butte Resort’s expansion to Snodgrass Mountain

Posted By: The Ski Channel on November 10, 2009 10:53 am

After more than five years of cooperative planning, Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) was blindsided by the US Forest Service’s rejection of their bid to enter the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process related to their expansion attempts onto Snodgrass Mountain.

NEPA is a process by which a group must undergo to allow the public to weigh in on any proposals before they can be undertaken. Objective studies are performed, and a final proposal is ultimately reviewed. This procedure helps to keep the Forest Service an objective group, and allows for control to rest in the hands of the public.

Crested Butte Mountain Resort felt very comfortable going into this decision, as they felt they were complying with all known requirements and concerns.

Mt. Crested Butte Mayor, William Buck, said “All indications were that the process was moving forward.”

Tim Mueller, president of Triple Peaks Resorts and CBMR, felt there was enough support for the Snodgrass expansion to begin the NEPA process.

Mueller said, “The feedback we received from the Forest Service up to this point has been both positive and encouraging. We’ve never received any indication that an objective, fair and public process would be denied after so much time and money had been invested.”

Contrary to Mueller’s statement, Charles Richmond, Supervisor of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, believed that the geological concerns raised over the project have damaged the overall support of local residents.

The Snodgrass Geology Report, released in January by the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Geological Survey, raised a variety of concerns forcing CBMR to change their Master Plan to exclude development within the associated areas of concern. CBMR representatives said previously they were informed by the Forest Service that as long as the modified plan provided for geology concerns and stayed within specified guidelines, that the agency would validate the Snodgrass proposal.

According to Richmond’s letter, he indicates that this decision cannot be appealed.

Mueller noted that in the past few years several Colorado resorts resting on public lands have proposed similar terrain expansions to the U.S. Forest Service, including Telluride, Breckenridge, Vail, Copper Mountain, Steamboat Springs and Snowmass. Each time, the proposed expansions saw both public support and opposition, but the Forest Service only made their final decision after conducting a public NEPA process and asking the public to comment on objective studies and on a draft and final Environmental Impact Study.

The Snodgrass expansion would have added to the amount of intermediate and advanced ski and snowboard terrain at CBMR by providing 276 acres of skiing serviced by three lifts, a beginner carpet and a connector gondola from Crested Butte Mountain.