Vail expansion approved Twelve years of studies and debate may have concluded last week when Eagle County commissioners unanimously approved Vail’s Category III expansion, which will add 885 acres to the Colorado resort. Then again, environmental groups are still threatening legal action — although they have yet to file any suits. County approval of the expansion first came in 1986, when commissioners issued a conditional permit. Environmental groups and concerned Colorado residents protested, saying the surrounding wilderness was at risk, in particular the lynx habitat. The lynx’s existence is disputed since the cats haven’t been seen in the area since 1973. However, Vail Associates funded research studying the impact of the expansion on the area’s wildlife and, as a result of those studies, agreed to reduce the original expansion area by one-third. Two bowls and one chairlift were removed from the plan. The Category III expansion area includes 885 acres of terrain (2,000 vertical feet) in north-facing gladed bowls, opposite Vail’s Back Bowls. The bowls should provide quality early- and late-season skiing for intermediate skiers, something the resort says it needs to remain competitive. Vail Associates expects to have the terrain open by the 1999-2000 season. However, if the US Fish and Wildlife Service places the lynx on the endangered species list those plans could be delayed again.