Compromise Reached with Eldora Ski Area Over Expansion Plans

Boulder County, Eldora Ski Resort, Sierra Club, and Middle Boulder Creek Coalition reach agreement on Eldora Mountain Ski Resort expansion

By: Dave Hallock and Bill Ikler, Middle Boulder Creek Coalition

Dave Hallock and Rocky Smith give a tour to Rocky Mountain Wild Staff at the proposed Eldora Mountain Resort expansion.
Dave Hallock and Rocky Smith give a tour to Rocky Mountain Wild Staff at the proposed Eldora Mountain Resort expansion in 2016.
Photo credit: Chris Talbot-Heindl

An historic agreement was signed by Middle Boulder Creek Coalition, the Boulder County Commissioners, Indian Peaks Group of the Sierra Club, and Powdr Corporation, owners of Eldora Ski Area, that lays out the framework for a compromise regarding the ski area’s plans for expansion.

In early 2010, Eldora Mountain Resort unveiled plans to expand the ski area to the north towards Hessie and Middle Boulder Creek, as well as south towards Jenny Creek. This prompted a response from environmental organizations and local citizens in opposition to the expansion plans and led to the formation of Middle Boulder Creek Coalition, comprised of local, state and national organizations. Boulder County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and Nederland’s Parks, Recreation and Open Space Advisory Board also expressed concerns about the planned expansion. Things were not looking good during the Forest Service’s EIS process, but in the final Record of Decision, they allowed the ski area to make the planned improvements within their current permit boundary, but held off on expansion plans outside the permit boundary hoping that the parties would continue negotiations and find a settlement.

We set out to save both the Middle Boulder Creek and Jenny Creek corridors from development. It was likely that that goal could only have been achieved with a long and expensive court battle with an uncertain outcome, since all the normal Forest Service protest options had been exhausted. When Powdr Corporation bought the ski area, and showed a willingness to reach a compromise solution, we chose to gain much of what we fought for through negotiation, rather than risk losing all in court. Through this compromise, the proposal to drop down to Middle Boulder Creek and Hessie (Placer lift) has been withdrawn while the expansion towards Jenny Creek (Jolly Jug lift) will go forward. In order to make the Jolly Jug downhill ski runs more compatible with existing cross-country ski use, the public Jenny Creek Trail will be rerouted, the Porcupine Park Nordic Trail will be relocated, and access to the Zarlengo and Antelope Nordic trails will be preserved. It is refreshing that Powdr chose to engage constructively with local citizens and governments, rather than being an adversary.

First, we want to thank all of the organizations and core group of volunteers who make up the Middle Boulder Creek Coalition (MBCC), who organized letter writing campaigns, fundraising, a benefit concert, two book signings events, creating a web site and Facebook site, making bumper stickers, and hundreds of phone calls and emails, and putting flyers on cars: you got us to where we are today.

To the members of the public and business owners who donated money and wrote letters to the editor, and wrote emails to the Forest Service and other government agencies: we couldn’t have achieved this degree of success without you.

The member organizations of MBCC are Indian Peaks Group of the Sierra Club, Boulder County Audubon Society, Eldora Civic Association, Rocky Mountain Wild, Boulder County Nature Association, Defenders of Wildlife, North Fork Council, No Eldora Expansion, and Conservation Colorado. Other agencies and organizations supportive during the process include Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Boulder County staff and Commissioners, Town of Nederland Parks, Recreation, and Open Space Advisory Board, and Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance.

We are also indebted to our consultants, attorney Mike Chiropolos and Rocky Smith, for their expertise and hard work.

The Middle Boulder Creek Coalition intends to continue to work with the Forest Service, Boulder County, Powdr Corporation, and other interested parties to get a stronger level of protection for the preservation of the Hessie Valley and the land bordering the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area.

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