WINTER PARK — The U.S. Forest Service has finally implemented policy to expand summer recreation at ski areas, but Winter Park Resort has already vaulted far ahead of other resorts in Colorado.
The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, push by Colorado Sen. Mark Udall and passed by Congress in 2011, is meant to strengthen the economies of ski areas by allowing summertime activities on federal land leased to resorts. The U.S. Forest Service announced it had finally completed its guidelines for the law on April 15, which allow low-impact summer sports like zip lining, disc golf and mountain biking. That’s big news for lots of resorts in the state, but it won’t mean locals will see any huge transformations at Winter Park.
“Winter Park is already somewhat further along in its mountain bike trail development than other ski areas in the nation,” said Reid Armstrong, with the local Sulphur Ranger District of the U.S. Forest Service. “I don’t think anything will change too much.”
That’s because Winter Park Resort and the Sulphur Ranger District began working hand-in-hand to make the area a mountain bike destination decades ago, according to Armstrong, when the Sulphur Ranger District began drafting its Land and Resource Management Plan in 1997.
“I think the community had a real interest in mountain biking trails back in the 1990s, and saw it as an area for growth and potential,” Armstrong said. “Working with the community is something this district has always tried to do.”
Although the 1997 plan covered the entire 442,000 acres in the Sulphur Ranger District, it specifically carved out the ski area and identified it as an area to develop mountain biking trails. That progressive planning helped Winter Park earn its branding title “Mountain Bike Capital, USA.”
Although the 2011 legislation and new U.S. Forest Service policy would allow the resort to add more summer activities, like ropes courses and concerts, Winter Park representatives said they’ll continue targeting their efforts into making the area a leading mountain biking destination.
“(There are) no immediate plans to add anything as of this moment,” said Steve Hurlbert, the resort’s director of public relations.” A lot of resorts have zip lines, but nobody really does mountain biking as comprehensively as we do, so we choose to dedicate ourselves to enhancing and improving Trestle Bike Park.”
Leia Larsen can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603.