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Know the West

Colorado resort shelves ski expansion

  After spending two and a half years and some $400,000, the Crested Butte ski resort in Colorado suddenly dropped plans to build new ski runs on a mountain adjacent to the existing resort.

"It appears their attitude has changed and we look forward to working with them," said a relieved Vicki Shaw of the local High Country Citizens Alliance, which led the opposition to the Snodgrass expansion.

Company officials had thought expansion onto Snodgrass Mountain would be a cinch since they won Forest Service approval for the project 10 years earlier. But the Forest Service asked the resort to complete a new environmental study. It determined that while out-of-town skiers wanted new terrain, local residents were dead set against it.

Letters of protest poured into the Gunnison Forest Office while local skiers took to the slopes bearing signs such as "Snodgrass is for the bears." Then Gunnison County officials invoked a little-used state law that required the resort to study off-site impacts, such as affordable housing and transportation.

Tired of fighting the community, the resort announced in mid-August it would take the town's advice and first spend some $8 million upgrading lifts and facilities on the main mountain before moving over to Snodgrass.

Local opponents are pleased but wary: "Every environmental victory is temporary, but every environmental defeat is permanent," says Crested Butte Councilman Gary Sprung.

* Elizabeth Manning