Thursday, January 6, 2011

Public Scoping - Summit-at-Snoqualmie Development

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:

Dear Interested Party:

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is initiating an environmental analysis required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in response to a proposal for new projects in the Summit-at-Snoqualmie ski area. The ski area is permitted to CNL Income Snoqualmie, LLC and operated by Ski Lifts, Inc., who submitted the proposal. The environmental analysis will analyze and disclose the potential impacts of amending the ski area’s master development plan (MDP). The proposed amendment includes the relocation and construction of a previously approved guest services building at the Silver Fir base. It also includes the construction of a parking lot, and the grooming of three different ski trails. These projects are described below in the Proposed Action section and are illustrated in the enclosed figures.

The Summit-at-Snoqualmie ski area is located on Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountain Range of western Washington, approximately 25 miles east of North Bend, Washington. The Summit-at-Snoqualmie Special Use Permit Area encompasses approximately 1,834 acres of National Forest System (NFS) lands. These acres are on the Snoqualmie Ranger District of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Cle Elum Ranger District of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests.

NEPA Process

MDPs are a requirement for ski areas permitted to operate on National Forest System lands, as stipulated in their permits.  They are intended to demonstrate the ability of a ski area to serve the needs of the recreating public, justify the commitment of National Forest System resources in the permit area, and assist the Forest Service and the ski area in long-range (10 to 15 years) planning of how best to invest in capital improvements. The current master development plan (The Summit-at-Snoqualmie Master Development Plan Proposal Final Environmental Impact Statement, September 2008) was accepted by the Forest, and projects affecting National Forest System resources were approved, in a Record of Decision (ROD) issued on October 21, 2008.  The MDP reflected Ski Lifts, Inc.’s views on long-term development at the ski area at that time.  

Given the complex and dynamic setting within which ski areas operate, it is necessary to amend and update MDPs over time.  In fact, one of the projects included in this proposal was approved in the 2008 ROD but has been modified due to changed conditions or new information.  The Forest Service has accepted an MDP amendment proposal submitted by Ski Lifts, Inc. in April 2010.  The proposal identified two projects that the ski area hopes to implement over the next three years.  These projects are described in detail below. 

Purpose and Need for Action

The purpose and need for action are based on the existing conditions at The Summit-at-Snoqualmie and the desired conditions that lead to a proposed action.  The purpose and need has two elements:
1.        There is a need for guest services in a location that provides a convenient, safe, and accessible recreation experience to ski users.

A 19,818 square foot expansion of the existing outpost at the Silver Fir base area was approved under the Summit-at-Snoqualmie Master Development Plan Proposal Record of Decision (2008). The existing location of the outpost is inferior because it is inconvenient and creates a public safety hazard. Guests are required to leave the ski run, walk around the bottom terminal and maze and then cross a road to reach the outpost.

2.        There is a need for ski runs that better accommodate beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders in the Silver Fir area.

Approximately 2 acres have been identified as problem areas for routine maintenance (Grading Areas B and C). The steep quality of the slope coupled with extremely rocky terrain makes this area difficult to groom for ski area users and unfeasible to maintain during low snow conditions. Trails are groomed to provide consistent, easily navigated terrain. Existing conditions of ski trails are steep, rocky, and narrow, with natural hazards that can make it difficult to navigate for beginner and intermediate users.

Proposed Action

The proposed amendment includes two elements. Implementation of all pertinent mitigation measures required by the October 2008 ROD would be part of each project.  Figure 1 is an overview map that identifies generally where these projects are located within the ski area.  It indicates the location of grading area A, the guest services lodge construction, and grading areas B and C west of the lodge site.  More detailed information on the guest services lodge construction, as currently approved, is available in the MDP and ROD.

Guest Services Lodge and Grading Area A

Changes from the 2008 approved project, as described in the MDP, include:

        Dropping plans approved in the MDP and ROD to expand the existing Silver Fir outpost (19,818 sq. ft) into a core guest services area.

        Removing the existing outpost and converting the area to parking.

        Grading approximately 1.5 acres of land to construct a new, but smaller (10,000 sq ft.) guest services lodge (Grading Area A).

        Constructing a new 10,000 square foot, two-story lodge on NFS land. A 7,000 square foot main floor would accommodate approximately 200 restaurant seats; a 3,000 square foot bottom floor would house bathrooms, rentals, retail, guest services, and provide storage; and a 5,000 square foot heated plaza and stairs would provide recreation users direct access to the loading area of the lift (maze) and parking.Implementation of the new Silver Fir Lodge is expected to occur between summer 2011 and fall 2012.

Figure 2 shows the location of Grading Area A, the proposed location of the new lodge, and the existing outpost/proposed parking area.

Grading Areas B and C

This is a new project not previously proposed in the 2008 ROD. The proposal is to grade approximately 1.75 acres of land located north along the slope of the Silver Fir Express lift (Grading Area B). There are three main cut areas that will be used to push material down into the two main fill areas (Figures 4 and 5). The majority of the fill material is expected to be shale from the south section as shown in Section A-A (Figure 6). The other cut sections are shallower. Most cut material will be pushed to the north to fill in low spots as shown in Fill Section B-B (Figure 7). Ground disturbing work in this area includes cutting and filling approximately 1500 cubic yards of material. The Ski Area hopes to implement this cutting with a bulldozer and trackhoe, but may need to conduct blasting.

The proposal is also to grade approximately 0.25 acre of land located north of Grading Area B and south of the Central Express lift (Grading Area C). The intent of grading this section is to widen the ski run creating easier conditions for intermediate skiers and snowboarders. Implementation of Grading Areas B and C is expected to occur during summer 2011.

Figure 3 shows the locations of Grading Area B and Grading Area C at Silver Fir.

Figures 4 and 5 show the cut and fill dimensions of Grading Area B, in detail.

Figure 6 shows Cut Section A-A; Figure 7 shows Fill Section B-B.

Decision to be Made       

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie Forest Supervisor will be the Deciding Officer for this project.  Upon completion of the environmental analysis, the Forest Supervisor will decide whether or not to authorize the implementation of the proposed amendments to the Summit-at-Snoqualmie MDP.

Public Involvement and Request for Comments

The Forest Service is scoping for issues that the environmental analysis should address. Your input will be used to analyze the effects of the proposed action or to develop alternatives and mitigation measures. In order to ensure your comments are considered in the analysis, please respond by no later than January 20, 2011. The Forest Service expects to release a decision in spring 2011. 

n an effort to reduce paper use, the Forest Service will emphasize electronic correspondence and media throughout this project. The Forest’s website will be the primary avenue through which the Forest Service will provide information about this project. You can view this letter and subsequent documents on the Internet at  by clicking Projects under the Land and Resources Management link.

Electronic comments should be submitted in text (.txt), .pdf, rich text (.rtf) or Word (.doc) format via e-mail to Written comments should be mailed or dropped off in person to Forest Supervisor, Attention: Snoqualmie Pass MDP Amendment #1 Project, at 2930 Wetmore Avenue, Suite 3A, Everett, WA 98201. Office hours for submitting hand-delivered comments are 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Comments may also be faxed to (425)783-0212.

If you have questions regarding this project, please contact the project leader, Cecilia Reed at Snoqualmie Ranger District (North Bend office), by telephone (425)888-8769, or

Comments received in response to this letter, including names and addresses of those who comment, will be part of the Project Record and available for public review.

Y. Robert Iwamoto, Forest Supervisor

Figures and maps are too large to send through e-mail. You can find figures, maps, and a pdf version of this scoping letter at under the heading "Snoqualmie Pass Ski Area Master Development Plan Amendment #1." If you would like to receive a hard-copy of this letter, please refer to the contact information in the request for comments section above or send a request to this e-mail addres

No comments: