Chapman takes a little off the top
Things are continuing to look up at Chapman Ski Hill.
On Monday, an excavator from McCarty Excavation and crew started work on improvements to the local ski hill, including expanding terrain on the upper part of the hill, adding more park features and improving the tow rope path.
The improvements are being funded by the Winter Sports Foundation, which raised $45,000 over the summer. “We decided to try to raise the money ourselves because the city didn’t have enough for the upgrades,” said WSF member Mike McQuinn. “We met last April and discussed how we could move forward sooner than later.”
Fellow WSF member/parent Mark Smith coordinated the work with the city, and McCarty Excavation donated use of the heavy equipment and operator. Several businesses also pitched in, including Second Ave. Sports, Zia Taqueria and Shaw Solar.
McQuinn, whose sons are skiers in the program, said the goal is to expand options on the top part of the hill, which is notoriously hard to access and tends to get skied off quickly, due to its steep pitch. Plans call for filling in the gully that forms to skiers’ left and grading the face to allow for more skiing options, including a bump run, and to better facilitate grooming and snowmaking. In addition, an elevated rock and earthen platform will be built at the top of the hill for the starting area of the mogul course.  
Another big upgrade entails adding features for two terrain parks: six advanced skier options and three smaller features for beginners. “Terrain parks were one of the things (ski coach) Kirk Rawles emphasized to make more kids in town come to Chapman,” said McQuinn.
The WSF will also be taking the reins in snowmaking. Keith Turco, a former snowmaker at Crested Butte and Purgatory, will work as part city employee/part WSF volunteer to head up the effort.
Other upgrades include:
- Improving the rope tow take-off/landing areas;
- Adding two pick points for the winchcat at the top of the hill;
- Adding a cat track from the ski hill, around the back of the skating rink to the sledding hill for grooming the sledding hill.
The improvements are scheduled to be completed this week.

Company settles clean air violations
A Texas-based natural gas producer has agreed to pay more than $200,000 for violating clean air regulations at the Ignacio Gas Treating Plant on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation.

 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the settlement with Elm Ridge Exploration Co. on Monday. In addition to the $207,150 in civil penalties, Elm Ridge is also required to pay $67,850 in unpaid permit fees.

The company also has agreed to emissions-reducing and gas-conservation measures, including: replacing old compressors with lower-emission models with pollution controls; a wood stove trade-in program for Southern Ute tribal members; and reducing emissions and conserving natural gas at the plant.

“The settlement secures Elm Ridge’s commitment to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, air toxics and greenhouse gases,” said Mike Gaydosh, EPA’s enforcement director in Denver. “Additionally, the conservation measures in this agreement will help return valuable natural gas to the marketplace.”

According to a complaint filed with the settlement, Elm Ridge violated provisions of the Title V Federal Operating Permit Program and the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants under the Clean Air Act. The company worked cooperatively with EPA to resolve these violations.
The control measures and improvements are expected to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, and carbon monoxide by more than 140 tons annually. The measures will also reduce emissions of hazardous air pollutants by more than 10 tons per year and greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10 tons per year, and conserve enough natural gas to heat approximately seven homes annually.

Wolf Creek comment period extended
Those wanting to comment on the latest round of negotiations for the controversial Village at Wolf Creek have gotten a reprieve. The Rio Grande National Forest announced last week it is extending the comment period on a draft environmental impact statement for a proposed land swap between the Forest Service and developers of the Village at Wolf Creek until Thurs., Oct. 11.

“Although we have received over 250 comments thus far, I decided to extend the comment period 10 days in response to requests from local and regional environmental organizations,” said Rio Grande National Forest Supervisor Dan Dallas.

The draft EIS, which was released Aug. 17, outlined specific courses of action for a swath of landlocked private property owned by Texas businessman Red McCombs, tucked within the boundary of Wolf Creek Ski Area. The 567-page study reviewed three alternatives: a land swap between McCombs and the Forest Service; approval of an access road from Highway 160 to the property; and a course of “no action.”

The proposed land exchange involves about 204 federal acres in exchange for 178 acres of a private inholding within the Rio Grande National Forest. Part of the federal land proposed for exchange would allow McCombs access from U.S. Highway 160, thus precluding the need for securing access across the national forest.

According to the EIS, the primary benefit of the land swap over the previous access proposal include scaled down “village,” relocation of most of the proposed development to an area farther away from the ski area, and a net gain to the Forest Service via acquisition of wetlands and perennial wildlife habitat.

Since McCombs’ land is surrounded by public land, he is entitled to “reasonable use and enjoyment of his property” under a 1980 law originally meant to allow Alaskans access to their federal land-locked properties.

McCombs’ Village at Wolf Creek, which was given preliminary approval by Mineral County in 2004, called for 2,000 units and 10,000 feet of commercial space near the base of the Wolf Creek Ski Area. However, that proposal was thrown out by a District Court judge who ruled the road to be used for access, which ran through the Wolf Creek base area, was not viable. McCombs was forced to seek approval for access to Highway 160 another way.

Comments on the land swap draft EIS should be submitted by Oct. 11 to: with “Village at Wolf Creek Access Project DEIS” in the subject line. For more information about the proposed Village at Wolf Creek, visit:
– Missy Votel


In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

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January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows