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Keystone ski resort expansion halted after alpine tundra is mistakenly damaged

Stephanie Daniel

The U.S. Forest Service has ordered a halt to the expansion of a Rocky Mountains ski resort after contractors mistakenly demolished protected alpine tundra to create a temporary road.

The Keystone Resort project involving new trails and lifts was stopped after officials saw work crews carving the path into protected land outside the approved construction area, The Colorado Sun reported Friday.

“We were surprised and disappointed to see this for sure,” said Scott Fitzwilliams, the supervisor of the White River National Forest for the U.S. Forest Service. But he added that the mistake was "not a catastrophic ecological event.”

The order to stop work issued earlier this month suspended development of Keystone Resort’s 0.9- square-mile (2.3-square kilometers) and 16-trail expansion until the environmental impacts of the unauthorized road are evaluated.

Keystone Resort is owned by Vail Resorts, Inc. and the company has hired a restoration firm to help mitigate and repair the damage.

“We deeply regret the impact this unauthorized construction activity has had on the environment that our team works carefully to protect every day,” Keystone manager Chris Sorensen said in a statement this week.

Other ski areas owned by Vail Resorts have faced setbacks recently.

At Park City Mountain Resort in Utah, the local planning commission rejected plans for expanded lift capacity following complaints that additional parking was needed.

And approval for Vail Ski Resort to build affordable housing was retracted by the town council after the property was condemned because it is deemed critical for bighorn sheep.