Vail Resorts Was Sent a Cease & Desist Letter After Bulldozing Unauthorized Road in Alpine Tundra During Keystone Resort, CO, Expansion

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High alpine terrain at Keystone Resort, CO.

It’s been a tough summer for Vail Resorts as it attempts to upgrade and improve its resorts. At Park City, UT, the planning commission ‘shockingly blocked‘ two previously approved chairlift upgrades, and in Vail, CO, previously approved plans to build employee housing have been shelved after the property was condemned as the parcel is critical for bighorn sheep.

And now, another previously approved and already underway project has been ordered to cease construction—the new chairlift in Bergman Bowl at Keystone Resort, CO. The US Forest Service requested construction be halted immediately after learning that an “unauthorized road had been bulldozed through sensitive areas where minimal impacts were authorized”, reports Vail Daily. Construction of access roads in alpine tundra isn’t traditionally allowed.

“When you drop a bulldozer blade in the alpine, that is very fragile, and very difficult to restore.”

– Scott Fitzwilliams, White River National Forest Supervisor

After discovering “damage to the alpine environment and impacts to wetlands” in Bergman Bowl, Fitzwilliams issued a cease and desist letter to Vail Resorts, which they complied with immediately, adds Vail Daily.

“We’re a long-term partner with Vail, and they’ve been a good partner. I’m confident we’ll be able to work through this, but it’s serious. We take this very serious.”

– Scott Fitzwilliam

Chris Sorenson, vice president and general manager at Keystone Resort, explained that the mistake was a misunderstanding by the company’s construction team, and the company is accepting full responsibility for the mistake. Vail Resorts has since hired a contractor to formulate a restoration plan.

“We are working closely with the U.S. Forest Service on an issue that arose during construction. Specifically, an area that was supposed to have a minimal construction route was instead approached as a temporary construction route. This was due to a misunderstanding by our construction team, for which we take full responsibility.

Keystone Resort has a long history of successful partnership with the U.S. Forest Service on projects that provide guests the opportunity to enjoy outdoor recreation within our National Forest. We take this mistake seriously, and at their direction have paused some work at the site while the USFS conducts an assessment to determine next steps.

We deeply regret the impact this unauthorized construction activity has had on the environment that our team works carefully to protect every day. We take environmental protection and compliance extremely seriously and are committed to making this right.

At this time, we do not yet know if this will impact the opening of lift-served terrain at Bergman Bowl this season. We will provide more information as we continue to work in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.”

– Chris Sorensen, VP & GM at Keystone Resort

While no timeline has been given for the project restarting it’s unlikely the lift will be running anytime soon said Fitzwilliams.

The White River National Forest approved Keystone’s plans for the new Bergman Bowl project in November 2020, with work beginning earlier this summer. The project will bring lift service to a portion of Keystone’s high alpine, above the treeline, terrain. A high-speed detachable quad chair will serve Bergman and neighboring Erickson Bowl, adding 555 acres of lift-served terrain to the resort.

Bergman Bowl Statistics:

  • Runs: 13 + gladed terrain
  • Skiable Acres: 555
  • Chairlift: High-speed quad
  • Base Elevation: 11,300 ft.
  • Summit Elevation: 12,300 ft.

Keystone is located in Summit County, CO, next to the likes of Arapahoe Basin, Breckenridge, and Loveland. The ski resort opened in 1970 and has since grown to 20 lifts and over 3,000 skiable acres. Since 1997, the mountain has been owned by Vail Resorts and is a part of the Epic Pass.

Along with the terrain expansion and new chairlift, Keystone will be adding additional infrastructure to the area. 20 acres of snowmaking, an expanded Outpost restaurant at the top of North Peak, and a ski patrol station at the top of the new Bergman Bowl chairlift will enhance the new project and skier experience.

With the new terrain, Keystone hopes to spread out crowds and provide a new experience for visitors. Previously, the terrain in Bergman Bowl and the surrounding area was accessible only by hiking and snowcat. Beginners and Intermediates will rejoice as they are able to experience above the treeline skiing in the new lift-served zone.

Bergman Bowl
Bergman Bowl proposal. Photo Credit: Keystone Resort

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4 thoughts on “Vail Resorts Was Sent a Cease & Desist Letter After Bulldozing Unauthorized Road in Alpine Tundra During Keystone Resort, CO, Expansion

  1. RE that video. Picture all that smooth virgin snow after a day’s pummelling by an at capacity high speed lift. I picture a massive wide open bump run.

  2. Sounds like Vail Resorts at their best–knowing that they cannot bulldoze the most sensitive alpine tundra area and still do it until they get caught. I am expecting the VR excuses to be coming out. To Vail Resorts it is all about the money and NOT doing the right thing. This has been their business practices since they went public.

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