News » Mountain News

Mountain News: Vail and Snowmass expanding



VAIL, Colo. — In anticipation of its 50th winter of operations, Vail is completing installation of a new gondola, using the same alignment as the original gondola when operations began in 1962.

The similarities end there, however. Each car on this new gondola will have heated leather seats and Wi-Fi access. It's also the fastest of its type in the world.

Meanwhile, the Forest Service approval of a ski area expansion at Breckenridge has been appealed by two groups, reports the Summit Daily News. One of the appeals contends that habitat for lynx will be fragmented by the ski area operations.

The Aspen Skiing Co. will be allowed to go forward with its 230-acre expansion in an area of Snowmass called Burnt Mountain. A U.S. District Court judge ruled that a Wyoming group was out of order in its objection and should have noted its argument at the proper time. The expansion will make Snowmass the second largest ski area in Colorado, behind Vail.

A milestone for water diversions in Colorado

VAIL, Colo. — If 1962 was a big year for skiing, with the opening of Vail, in Colorado it was also notable for benchmarks in diversion of water. One project was completed and another was started, the two of them substantially enlarging the unnatural flow of water from the Colorado River Basin to the Front Range of Colorado.

Colorado is an unbalanced state. Nearly 80 per cent of precipitation in the state falls west of the Continental Divide, where nearly all of Colorado's ski areas are located, mostly in the form of snow. But 80 per cent of its population and an even higher percentage of its farms and ranches live on the eastern side.

Diversions across the Continental Divide began in 1911 and accelerated in 1936 when dewatering of creeks around Winter Park began. But 1962 was a huge year for this export of water. That year, Denver finished a new tunnel that is three metres in diameter and 37.5 kilometres long. The tunnel diverts water from Dillon Reservoir into the South Platte River, upstream from Denver.

Also in 1962, President John F. Kennedy gave a speech kicking off construction of the Fryingpan-Arkansas Project. The project diverts water from the Fryingpan and Roaring Fork Rivers, both located in the Aspen area, to cantaloupe and other farms in the Arkansas River Valley. Some of that water has now found its way to metropolitan Denver.

Now, Colorado faces a new issue. Instead of figuring out how to develop its water, the key question is how much water it has left to develop — if any. The Colorado River Compact of 1922 apportions water among the seven states from Wyoming to California. It also requires Colorado and other upper-basin states to deliver 7.5 million acre-feet of water to the lower-basin states on a rolling 10-year average.