Expansion faces restrictions

  COLORADO


Telski, the ski resort in southern Colorado's Telluride, is expanding onto national forest lands now that a lawsuit brought by two locals and two environmental groups has been settled (HCN, 8/4/97: A do-over in Telluride).


In an out-of-court agreement, Telski owner, Telluride Ski & Golf Co., was authorized to add 733 acres, nearly doubling its terrain. But the ski company and the Forest Service must observe snowmaking restrictions, protect a rare type of wetland, and keep a minimum flow in the San Miguel River. In addition, the plaintiffs have been granted oversight of some aspects of the expansion to make sure environmental stipulations are met.


The expansion opponents agree they made substantial gains in the battle, but they say it was a bittersweet victory.


"I'm not at all happy with it," says Rocky Smith of Colorado Wild, a plaintiff in the suit. "We didn't have the legal basis." Smith said they settled the lawsuit because it was legally impossible to stop expansion altogether into Prospect Basin, an environmentally sensitive area containing peat wetlands and old-growth trees.


The ski area still needs to obtain permits from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to encroach on wetlands.


"The groups had valid environmental concerns," says Telluride resort spokesperson Jennifer Schlegel. "We worked together to reach a decision." She says expansion is necessary to make the ski area a "seven-day mountain."


The expansion will be funded mainly by Hideo Morita, who owns much of the real estate in the area. He acquired a third of Telluride Ski & Golf Company last July.


Copyright © 2000 HCN and Catherine Lutz