Routt County OK with Steamboat Ski Area master plan doubling as its conceptual plan

Tom Ross
Routt County commissioners agreed Tuesday to allow the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp.'s master plan on file with the U.S. Forest Service to also serve as a conceptual plan at the county level. Major projects, including expansion of ski area boundaries and buildings greater than 1,000 square feet, would still come back to the county for final approval.
courtesy photo

— Routt County commissioners agreed to a request Tuesday from the Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. seeking to have its 2011 Master Development Plan, already vetted by the U.S. Forest Service, acknowledged as also serving as a conceptual PUD (planned unit development) with the county.

That means the county agrees that the planned locations of new restaurants and ski lifts, for example, are on record and don’t need to involve new planning permits. But that doesn’t mean the ski area has carte blanche to build major projects without going through the county in the case of large new buildings or any plans to expand the boundaries of the ski area.

Ski Corp. Vice-President of Skier Services Jim Schneider pointed out that the ski area, most of it on National Forest lands, is within the county’s Outdoor Recreation Zone District, and that district comes without any provisions for uses by right.

“That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here” — gaining acknowledgment that the master plan scrutinized at length by the Forest Service is sufficient to serve as a conceptual plan at the county level, Schneider said.

Projects including buildings greater than 1,000 square feet would come back to the county for a final PUD – as did the now two-year-old Four Points restaurant expansion. And any new chairlifts, of which there are several in the 2011 Master Plan, would go through the rigorous National Environmental Protection Act process with the Forest Service overseeing.

Ski Corp. Vice President of Mountain Operations Doug Allen told the commissioners that the inclusion of new lifts and restaurants, as well as other projects, in the master plan does not signify any decision to build them. Instead, it’s a carefully studied list of projects the ski area would like to undertake in a 10-year time span. In the same vein, it’s not a list of everything the ski area would ever build on the mountain.

There are some attention-getting items on Ski Corp.’s wish list. One is a ski-way in the form of a snow-covered bridge, 325 feet long and 85 feet above Burgess Creek, which would make it easier for skiers to leave the ski trails on Pioneer Ridge.

The plan also anticipates two new six-person lifts, replacing the existing Elkhead and Thunderhead lifts. Sunshine Bowl is being considered for some changes, including building the new Sunshine II quad lift, an additional 120 skiable acres on new trails, a new restaurant on Tomahawk Trail, expansion of Rendezvous Restaurant and the replacement of South Peak lift with a quad.

“The real basis of the master plan is to make sure the future development on the mountain is in balance — lift capacity and trial capacity is balanced so skiers don’ t back up,” Allen said. “It’s to make sure that as the pieces in the plan come together, they are in balance. From time to time, there is a revision to the plan.

“Right now, we’re looking at building a new gondola with greater capacity,” than the existing gondola, he sad.

Allen said the 177-page master plan was produced by a globally recognized ski area consulting company, Ecosign Mountain Resort Planners, in Whistler, British Columbia, which designed Alpine ski facilities for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and is currently doing work for Seoul.

In response to a question from Commissioner Doug Monger, Allen acknowledged that the city of Steamboat Springs questioned the ski area closely on whether it had available skier parking when the 2011 plan was going through the public process. He said Ski Corp. was able to reassure the city by researching existing easements they control that can offer additional base area parking.

Since then, Ski Corp. has made arrangements for overflow parking at both Strings in the Mountains and future development ground at Wildhorse Marketplace.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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