Council Asks for More Details Before Approving Potential Vail Expansion at Mt. Sunapee

Oct 23, 2018

Mount Sunapee skiing.
Credit NHPR Photo

The New Hampshire Executive Council held an information session Tuesday to address potential expansion of the Mount Sunapee ski area.


The state already approved new owner Vail Resorts' take over of the lease of state park land where the current ski area lies.


But one controversial amendment put before the council involves whether or not Vail will have the option to proceed with the so-called West Bowl expansion. That and two other amendments were tabled so counselors could learn more about possible effects of further development.


Executive Counselor Andru Volinsky said he'd like more details from Vail.


"Right now Vail is saying they don't have a particular interest in developing the real estate around the West Bowl or developing the West Bowl,” Volinsky said. “And I'd like to see a specific plan before I vote on the expansion."


Currently, it's unclear what impacts further development -- like adding chairlifts or trails -- might have on old-growth forests in the area.


"Several trees were cored there back in 2004 [and] some were 170 years old, red spruce species,” said National Heritage Bureau Administrator Sabrina Stanwood. “Old forests require buffers, they need forests around them to maintain the unique features that they have."


Some conservation groups are concerned more development could harm those habitats in the park.


“We think it would be helpful for future decision-making to know as much as science can tell us about the ecological integrity of the forest, given the disturbances that are proposed,” says Will Abbott, vice president for Policy and Land Management with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. But Abbott also says it’s possible those disturbances wouldn’t seriously affect the health of the forest.


Newbury resident Steve Russell with the conservation group Friends of Mount Sunapee wrote in a statement that he’d like to see a ‘no’ vote on the amendment. “By opposing this amendment, existing ski operations at Mt. Sunapee will not be impacted,” Russell wrote. “It is possible to have a thriving ski business without adopting this amendment to the lease.”