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no lift service at silverton this year

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
No Lift-Served at Silverton This Season

Silverton, CO (Wednesday, December 26, 2001) - Silverton Mountain, slated to become Colorado's newest ski area this winter, announced yesterday that they will only be offering guided tours this season.

Silverton Mountain was forced to adjust operations due to the BLM’s (Bureau of Land Management) decision to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Aaron Brill, founder of Silverton Mountain explains, “The BLM is not used to issuing ski area permits so we understand their decision to conduct an EIS. By fully operating at this time, we risk aggravating an agency that we hope to get a permit from. It just didn’t make sense.”

Economic factors apparently are playing a key role in Silverton Mountain's decision as well. A report in the Denver Post states that the BLM has told Brill that it will fine him $1,000 every time a skier leaves his 350-acre grounds for surrounding public land.

Silverton Mountain was hoping to proceed with an Environmental Assessment, which is a much less expensive process. “We are talking about an area that has been heavily impacted by mining over the years. We proposed no permanent structures on public land. The lift is even on private land, so, the decision definitely surprised us.” An Environmental Assessment is the same in-depth review the Forest Service required for Telluride's 733-acre, three-lift expansion and Vail's 885-acre, three-lift Blue Sky Basin expansion - projects where both the lifts and the skiing were on public land. In Silverton's case, the lift was constructed entirely on private land.

The BLM cited public safety as its primary concern and reason to pursue a more intense environmental review of Brill's operation. The area may be habitat for the federally protected Canada lynx, another cause for concern by the BLM.

Brill continued, “We put off making this decision as long as we could because we know Silverton needs a lot more than 20 visitors a day to significantly boost the winter economy. Times are very tough in Silverton, the Visitor Center can barely find enough money to operate and the high school is contemplating closing. We are ready to open our area to the thousands of people who want to ski here but we have to refrain from fully operating out of respect for the BLM process. Unfortunately our goal of $25 lift tickets will have to wait another year.”

Silverton Mountain is fine-tuning the chairlift and it should be ready for the Colorado Tramway Board inspection by early to mid-January.

The Silverton Outdoor Learning and Recreation Center (SOLRC)/ Silverton Mountain ski area will open with guided tours only this winter. People can enjoy Colorado’s newest ski area with just a few other people this season.

The guided skiing will be on 1600 acres of private and public land and no backcountry experience is necessary. Tours will operate like heli skiing for $99 a day with only 20 people riding the mountain at a time. No lift lines, no crowds, and only advanced terrain. Just you and your friends get the whole mountain to yourself.

Silverton Mountain will have slope side rentals available from Da Kine, Black Diamond, and Backcountry Access to accommodate equipment needs.

Reservations for guided tours will begin booking on Jan. 2 nd. Operations will be from Thursday to Sunday, with Monday to Wednesday available for private groups, parties, bachelor / bachelorette parties, etc…

The Silverton Outdoor Learning and Recreation Center courses will begin on January 12 th with a Wilderness First Aid course and an avalanche awareness course on January 13th.
post #2 of 7
Sounds like more federal land mismanagement.
What does the term 'public land' mean anyway? It obviously doesn't mean it's for public use. Anyone else follow?
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Heli-skiing for $99 a day?!?

Tours will operate like heli skiing for $99 a day with only 20 people riding the mountain at a time
post #4 of 7
I hope he makes it through all the red tape and sees his vision realized. I can't help but think that if Brill had the resources of a Vail or Telluride, that the BLM would be a bit more cooperative. I'll have to seriously consider heading down there this year - sounds incredible. Lift served guided tours for $99 limited to 20 per day = unlimited pow!!
post #5 of 7
: : : :
how the BLM can justify backcountry skiers providing more impact than the ranchers, miners, & off road entusiasts they already cater & bow to is beyond me.
I think Brill needs to start buying Legislators as all the rest do.
: : : :
post #6 of 7
Give it a rest unless you know the facts. Brill and Silverton need to abide by the same rules and regulations as any ski area operating on public land. He is being asked to complete an EIS (enviromental impact statement) same as Vail or Telluride. Is there a reason he should be exempt? What the BLM is asking for is proof that Silverton can provide a snow safety plan in line with the terrain they are planning on taking clients into. That is what any ski area operating on federal lands must provide. One of the sticking points with the BLM is that Brill and Silverton seem unable to hire and keep an experienced Snow Safety Director and staff. Burch and Altobelli lasted one season.

<FONT COLOR="#800080" SIZE="1">[ December 29, 2001 04:23 AM: Message edited 1 time, by BSR ]</font>
post #7 of 7
Found this article online that does a pretty fair job of explaining the issues

Navigate Site Front Page Search News Sports Business Entertainment Technology Police Obituaries Health Religion Opinion Columnists Weather Classifieds Event Calendar Capitol Report Rate Card Subscribe Order Products Links Coupons Site FAQ About Us Write the Editor

BLM requires stringent study for ski proposal

November 28, 2001

By Tom Sluis
Herald Staff Writer

The Bureau of Land Management will use the more stringent of two environmental-impact analyses to study a proposed ski area near Silverton because of avalanche danger and the potential to impact lynx habitat, the agency announced Tuesday.

The Silverton Outdoor Learning and Recreation Center plans to operate on a mixture of private and public land 6 miles north of Silverton. Developer Aaron Brill owns 350 acres on 13,487-foot Storm Peak, but he wants a permit to let skiers use an adjacent 1,500 acres of BLM land.

The BLM took comments in August and September on Brill’s proposal. The agency then had to decide if the plan would produce sufficient environmental impact to justify an Environmental Impact Statement, or if it would result in no significant environmental impacts, warranting a less-intensive Environmental Assessment.

Ann Bond, spokeswoman for the BLM’s San Juan Field Office, said the project was complex enough to warrant an Environmental Impact Statement. Plus, there are lingering questions over potential lynx habitat and how avalanche dangers will be dealt with on the 50-degree slopes.

Environmental Assessments typically take about six months; Environmental Impact Statements can take years.

Bond said, in this case, the process is expected to take up to a year.

Brill said he was disappointed with the decision, but that he doesn’t blame the land-management agency.

"It’s unfortunate that we have to go through the same process as Vail did with its ... expansion, where they cut several hundred acres of old-growth forest," Brill said. "But I don’t blame the BLM for making this decision. It is the fault of the large real-estate-driven ski areas that have created a federal land-use permitting process that is gun-shy from lawsuits."

However, he said the one-size-fits-all approach to environmental studies on ski areas does not apply in this situation.

"Small ski areas with small impacts should not have to go through the same process as larger ski areas run by golf-course and real-estate developers," he said.

Brill recently installed a chairlift and said it should be running by Christmas. About 90 people a day are expected to use the 350-acre area, he said. Guided tours on the 1,500 BLM acres will be available to 20 people per day under a second permit that was approved by the BLM.

The ski area has received national attention. Seven magazines, including Skiing, Outside, Men’s Journal, Backcountry and National Geographic Adventure, have done stories on the ski area in the past two months.

"There is a lot of interest, but the hype hasn’t started yet," Brill said. "The hype will start when people start skiing here."

Economic blow or boon?

The town of Silverton and San Juan County support Brill’s proposal because it could bring jobs to the economically struggling area. Both governmental agencies, as well as dozens of public letters sent to the BLM, urged the Environmental Assessment be chosen because it would not take as long as an Environmental Impact Statement.

"The town has taken an official position that a full Environmental Impact Statement is not necessary," said Silverton Town Administrator Dave Erickson. "But maybe the BLM knows something we don’t."

San Juan County Administrator Bill Norman said people in Silverton have high hopes that the ski area will contribute to the winter economy, but environmental protection can’t be ignored.

"Even if Aaron’s project had never been proposed, it would not spell doom for the community," Norman said.

Bond said the ski area’s potential financial impact on Silverton will be taken into account in the environmental study, and that the agencies are moving as fast as they can.

Jim Reser, director of the Small Business Center at Fort Lewis College, said while San Juan County ‘s economy can use an infusion of cash, it is not dependent on Brill’s plan.

"Whether Brill’s project is running in two years or one will not break the county’s economy," Reser said. "But Silverton does not need any more setbacks. It has been dealt enough tough blows."

Unemployment rates in San Juan County run about 22 percent in the winter and decrease to about 5 percent in the summer.

The town’s main employer was the Sunnyside Mine until it shut down in 1991. Since then the town has tried to diversify its economy, particularly by finding businesses that stay open in the winter.

Brill said six people are employed full time at the ski area. If he is not able to get the permit for the 1,500 acres by next winter, it will not shut him down, "but it will be a big deal," he said.

The ski area has about $720,000 in financial backing.

"With the (Environmental Impact Statement) it means we will have to more tightly manage our cash flow and tap into additional equity sources," Brill said. He did not identify what those sources were.

As the permit applicant, Brill is required to pay for all the environmental studies. He said he has spent about $30,000 so far, with the expectation that only an Environmental Assessment would be required. With an Environmental Impact Statement now being required, he said he now expects to spend $120,000 in all.

If the BLM ultimately gives Brill a permit to use its 1,500 acres, it would be the first ski area in Colorado on BLM land. Ski areas such as Durango Mountain Resort typically lease land from the Forest Service.

For lifelong Silverton resident and skier Nicole Barr, this is reason enough to require an Environmental Impact Statement.

"This is the BLM’s first ski area under its control, and it needs to be aware of all the conditions involved before issuing a permit," she said.

Besides the ski area’s impact on potential lynx habitat and the avalanche danger, Barr, who works in a restaurant, said she is skeptical of the ski area’s benefit to the winter economy.

"There is a handful of people in Silverton who think it will bring business to town, but there are also people who run businesses in the summer who don’t want the extra business because it would mean they would have to stay in Silverton for the winter, which they don’t want to do," she said.

"It would be ludicrous not to do an (Environmental Impact Statement) on a new ski area in this day and age, especially for an area that is not known for its ski mentality."
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