The government agency announced its decision in draft form Tuesday, and marks an important milestone in Eldora's years-in-the-making expansion plans. 5280 magazine summed up the resort's appeal and expansion plans in an article last fall:
As one of just eight areas in Colorado Ski Country USA’s “Gems” program, which highlights and preserves the sport’s heritage, Eldora represents the kind of unpretentious ski experience that is increasingly difficult to find. It’s the un-Vail. And so, in its attempts to modernize, Eldora must also fight to protect what draws people to it in the first place.
Eldora’s proposed overhaul is one of the most ambitious efforts in its 50-plus-year history. The area aims to replace three of its four major lifts and add up to two more; parking would grow by 560 spaces; one of its four restaurants would get a major renovation; and a new midmountain lodge would add a fifth eatery. Most important, Eldora would cut up to 15 new runs and increase vertical drop by 25 percent with ski area boundary adjustments to the south, toward Jenny Creek, and to the north, toward Middle Boulder Creek.
In its announcement, the Forest Service said the expansion will provide "enhanced opportunities for the skiing public to enjoy a downhill ski area within an hour of Denver.”
“The expanded, more natural terrain and improved on-mountain guest services will help Eldora Mountain Resort provide the alpine ski experience expected by clients,” Forest Supervisor Glenn Casamassa said.
Resort spokesman JP Chevalier told the Daily Camera that he wanted to "digest the document" before making specific comments on the decision.
Eldora faced opposition from Boulder County commissioners and environmental groups. The Forest Service received nearly 1,400 public comments on the proposal, all of which were reviewed and factored into the decision.
Bill Ikler, wilderness chair for the Indian Peaks Group of the Sierra Club, said he’s disappointed with the decision.
“We’re not totally surprised either," Ikler said. "Ski area expansions by and large tend to get approved."
Ikler said his group is especially concerned with the expansion toward Middle Boulder Creek. The area is a known migration corridor for elk.
“Our other objection to this is that it will have an impact on backcountry travelers. The road that goes along the creek is used by cross-country skiers in the winter. So that will change their recreational experience as they pass by what will [soon be] a ski lift and ski runs,” Ikler said.
More objections can now be filed. The decision's publication opens a 60-day window of public comment, after which the draft decision will be finalized.
CPR News' Grace Hood contributed to this report.