DENVER – Federal officials are conducting an environmental review stemming from a proposal to diversify terrain for helicopter skiing at Silverton Mountain.
The review – conducted under the National Environmental Policy Act – is sure to delay the process, which the owners of Silverton Mountain had hoped to avoid because of a previous environmental assessment.
Aaron and Jen Brill, the owners of Silverton Mountain, requested a change in their helicopter-access permit to swap northern terrain in exchange for adjacent areas. Silverton Mountain’s base is situated off San Juan County Road 110. The biggest swath under consideration would be on the east side of County Road 2.
“It’s moving forward, it’s just on the BLM timeframe,” Aaron Brill said. “They’re going through a smaller environmental assessment, but we were hoping we would not have to go through that route because it had been previously analyzed.”
The couple was attempting to convince the Bureau of Land Management’s Tres Rios Field Office to approve the change for the upcoming ski season. But with the environmental review, they say that is no longer likely.
Federal authorities decided to conduct a new environmental review to develop a list of issues and concerns associated with the entire project area.
Some Silverton residents are concerned about limiting backcountry terrain as a result of the proposal.
“The last (environmental assessment) for this permit was completed in 2008, so we wanted to verify that the issues are the same as they were in 2008,” said Jeff Christenson, supervisory outdoor recreation planner for the Tres Rios Field Office.
Officials have launched the “scoping” phase of the review, which is the initial step taken. After scoping, the BLM will develop any alternatives to the proposed action and an analysis of the impacts of the alternatives.
An environmental assessment will be shared for an additional 30-day public comment period, followed by a decision by the field office.
Federal officials began the environmental review after San Juan County commissioners in July asked for a more complete analysis. Several community members also expressed a desire for more detail in the assessment.
“It was the intent of the BLM that the comments received during scoping could help in Silverton Guides refining their proposal to address information gaps and/or adjust their proposal in response to identified concerns and issues,” Christenson said. “However, it is clear from scoping responses that there is a need to have the proposal from Silverton Guides be made available as is.”