Steamboat uses helicopter to remove dead pines

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Saw crews are busy this week felling beetle-infested lodgepole pine trees near the midway elevation at Steamboat Ski Area in preparation for the arrival of a helicopter to begin stacking the logs on the ski area.

The U.S. Forest Service has closed an area encompassing parts of the Burgess Creek drainage.

“As we continue to grow and expand our on-mountain activities, the mitigation and logging work we do during the fall season becomes an important part of our winter preparations and future summer planning,” Doug Allen, vice president of mountain operations for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., said in a prepared statement.

The logging is being undertaken to reduce the dangers associated with the many dead, dying and weakened trees that could fall on people and equipment at the ski area. Steamboat is fortunate to have a diverse forest including fir and aspen trees that are not affected by the beetles and will not be impacted by the logging operation.

The closure remains in effect through Oct. 30 or until the work is completed. The ski area saw similar operations in October 2012.

Removal of logs by helicopter limits the ground footprint and decreases the potential for soil erosion and sedimentation to streams, said ski area spokesman Mike Lane.

Lane confirmed in an email that trucks will haul the yarded logs down the mountain to city streets, and the public needs to be aware of traffic on the Why Not trail that winds down the lower mountain. From there, the loaded log trucks will travel down Burgess Creek Road to Mount Werner Road.

The star of summer improvements on the ski mountain is unquestionably the new Four Points Lodge, where crews under the supervision of Calcon Constructors have finished installing exterior siding and stone work. However, Steamboat also is going to considerable length, laying almost 2 miles of new pipeline, to increase the efficiency of its snowmaking system, Lane said.

The new pipeline runs up the middle of Heavenly Daze, the largest intermediate ski trail leading down the mountain from Thunderhead Peak. The position of the pipeline in the middle of the run is being counted on to accelerate snow production, according to Lane, because the 52 tower snow guns spaced 75 feet apart will be able to swing side to side. That will allow crews to cover both sides of the trail without the need for a complete equipment reset.

Steamboat’s veteran crew of snow grooming operators also will have some new toys to play with this winter in the form of two Prinoth Bison grooming machines powered by six-cylinder, 355-horsepower engines.


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