New Snowmass Master Plan Approved By U.S. Forest Service

New Snowmass Master Plan Approved By U.S. Forest Service


New Snowmass Master Plan Approved By U.S. Forest Service


Many major changes could be coming to Snowmass in the future. Aspen Public Radio reports that last year, Snowmass submitted an updated Master Development Plan to the U.S. Forest Service. In January, the Forest Service accepted their master plan, but for each individual project proposed, there will be analysis and environmental reviews needed in order to receive official approval from them. In addition, the Town of Snowmass Village will also need to improve the master development plan.

The plan features new lifts, expanded terrain in each of their existing pods, snowmaking improvements, and more offseason activities. Here’s a breakdown of what could be coming to Snowmass.

New Lifts: In 1994, the U.S. Forest Service approved a plan to install a chairlift up to the top of Burnt Mountain. This terrain, which is of intermediate and advanced difficulty, still remains only accessible by hiking to it from the Elk Camp terrain pod. Their plan is for a detachable quad chairlift for this terrain pod.

The base terminal would be around the Eastbranch trail, with the top terminals not yet being determined. Snowmass officials want to keep some of this terrain only accessible for hiking. The project doesn’t appear to be a priority for Snowmass at the moment.

Their base village, which is among the most congested areas at Snowmass, will get two major lift upgrades. The Village Express, which is currently a high-speed six-pack chairlift, is planned to be replaced by a ten-person gondola.

The Coney Glade chairlift, which opened in the same year that the Mets last won a World Series, will be replaced by a new high-speed quad. The new Coneygame chairlift will start near the Snowmass mall, while the current one starts much further up the mountain. This is a priority for Snowmass, as they want to start construction on this lift in the summer of 2024.

The Alpine Springs and Elk Camp chairlifts, which are high-speed quads, would be replaced with six-pack detachable chairlifts.

The Cirque, which is a surface lift that services high-alpine terrain, could be replaced by a newer surface lift, doubling its capacity to 1000 riders per hour.

New Trails: The new master development plan shows that each terrain pod could get expanded terrain. Big Burn, Sam’s, Campground, Alpine Springs, High Alpine, Burnt Mountain, and Elk Camp will possibly gain new trails/glades.

The new Burnt Mountain chairlift would be followed by new trails.  Four trails/glades are being planned over on Burnt, which would help connect the Longshot trail to Elk Camp. Additionally, 200 acres of glades are planned across the mountain, focusing on Alpine Springs, Wildcat over on Sam’s Knob, and Sneakys’s which is near the top of Big Burn.

Snowmaking: With climate change resulting in warming temperatures in Colorado, Snowmass is looking to add snowmaking coverage across its peaks. The terrain pods that could be adding snowmaking in the future are Alpine Springs, Big Burn, and Elk Camp.

For early-season riding, they want to add snowmaking to their high-elevation terrain zones, with downloading options available on their lifts for getting back down. This is to plan for winters where skiing top to bottom could become a challenge due to warming temperatures.

On-Mountain Buildings: Expansions are planned for the Sam’s, Lynn Britt, and Ullrhof lodges. Two sites are being considered for new lodges: one on the Gunner’s View trail and another situated next to the base terminal of the Alpine Springs chairlift. If these are built, they would follow Aspen Snowmass’s environmentally sustainable practices.

Summer Attraction: Snowmass already has a variety of great offseason activities, including an acclaimed biking park, a mountain coaster, zip lines, and more. Guests want more hiking trails and kids’ attractions, so that’s what Snowmass is planning to do.

For hiking, 10.4 miles of new trails would feature differing lengths and difficulties. A large chunk of these trails would be located off the top of Sam’s Knob. Shorter hikes would go from the top of some chairlifts to viewpoints like the Burnt Mountain Summit and the Sandy Park Saddle. A platform walk is also being considered on Rabbit Run, which would help younger kids and adults with physical limitations reach the hiking trails more easily.

For kids, they plan on adding a ropes course, a mellower zip-line experience, an interactive nature walk that leads to the existing mountain coaster, another climbing wall, and an easy mountain biking trail. Additional mountain biking trails are also planned.

You can read the 2022 Master Development Plan here.

Image Credits: Aspen Snowmass

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