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Beaver Creek adds Arrowhead, all of Bachelor Gulch; long live the Interconnect
Stone Creek Chutes, accessed via a backcountry gate on the front side of Beaver Creek, will be a welcome addition to the early-season offerings at the Beav', which is now almost entirely open to the public.
By Dan Davis

Beaver Creek adds Arrowhead, all of Bachelor Gulch; long live the Interconnect

By David O. Williams

December 19, 2008 —  Thursday night’s storm wasn’t quite as massive as some were forecasting, but it still produced a half a foot of new snow at Beaver Creek and 7 inches new at Vail Friday morning, bringing the Beav’ to 4 feet even since it started snowing last Friday night and Vail to 44 inches.

All of this means the entire Beaver Creek ski system will be open for business on Saturday if you’re headed up or out to get a jump on the hoped-for holiday crowds. All of Bachelor Gulch and now Arrowhead open Saturday, and I love those areas for a couple of reasons.

First of all, both areas include some great cruising terrain perfect for touring with the family (and some fantastic tree skiing if you’re searching for untracked pow), but it’s the Interconnect that really does it for me. There’s something about the village-to-village ski touring concept that takes me back to European adventures in the Alps.

Bachelor Gulch and Arrowhead villages will never be mistaken for Austrian or Swiss burgs where ski lifts rise past medieval church steeples, but it’s still a pretty cool concept. My fantasy is that someday Vail Resorts will run a gondola down the Minturn Mile off the backside of Vail Mountain and across Highway 6 and 24 to Meadow Mountain and then on up to the Beav’.

A lot of people don’t know that Vail once owned Meadow Mountain (where the tubing hill is now on the north side of the town of Minturn) but years ago turned it over to the Forest Service for some crazy reason.

How cool would it be to be able to ski and ride lifts and gondolas from Outer Mongolia Bowl on the far eastern edge of Vail Mountain all the way to Arrowhead above the town of Edwards, which is 15 miles west of Vail. Talk about your ultimate transit solution. People could ski to work and avoid the perils of Dowd Junction altogether.

Anyway, it promises to be a great although frigid weekend of skiing (with some more snow in the forecast), and I’ll likely see you on the slopes. I’ll be the one daydreaming on the chairlift about the ultimate Rocky Mountain ski interconnect.

And while I’m on the topic of mass transit, the pending appointment by the Obama administration of Republican Illinois Rep. Ray LaHood as secretary of transportation could be a positive sign for public transportation buffs in Colorado who would love to see light rail expanded on the Front Range and a high-speed train into the mountains.

The Chicago Tribune notes that “unlike many Republicans in Congress, LaHood has a record of supporting funding for Amtrak and public transit.”

President-elect Barack Obama has said he would like to see the nation’s mass transit system radically improved — something that may be addressed as part of his administration’s economic stimulus package — especially to include high-speed rail between major American cities.

While the Interstate 70 corridor connecting Colorado’s most populous cities on the Front Range to the relatively rural Western Slope and its energy fields and resort playgrounds doesn’t exactly qualify as a major-metro transit corridor, it is a vital economic pipeline for the state, as well as the nation’s major east-west route for interstate trucking.

Gov. Bill Ritter has already targeted $1.5 billion in transportation infrastructure upgrades he’d like to see of the state — mostly decrepit road and bridge fixes — but the dream of mass transit along the I-70 corridor seems a distant one given the year-long recession.

Even the hoped-for financing panacea of oil-and-gas severance tax funds may not pan out given the sharp drop in energy prices, meaning that the new state Legislature’s top priority in January — fixing Colorado’s buckling transportation system — might come down to wrangling over a menu of unpopular tax hikes and fee increases.

According to at least one national environmental group, LaHood — the first Republican and only Arab-American selected so far for Obama’s cabinet — is an ideal choice to ensure the nation’s transportation infrastructure is rebuilt with green sensibilities and an emphasis on mass transit.

Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, praised the expected appointment of LaHood to head up the Department of Transportation:

“President-elect Obama’s choice of Ray LaHood to head the Department of Transportation highlights the need for bipartisan efforts to fix our broken transportation system. Congressman LaHood will face some of the greatest transportation and infrastructure challenges in our nation’s history, but also some of the greatest opportunities. His first priority, a green economic recovery package, will require a strong commitment to repairing our broken bridges, roads, and tunnels, and investing in new and existing public transit. All of this will help to create green jobs and re-charge our economy. Congressman LaHood has always worked across the aisle and with environmental groups, and, at this pivotal moment for our nation, we look forward to working with him to chart a course toward a clean, energy-efficient transportation system.”



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