TRUCKEE, Calif. — Vail Resorts’ proposed alpine coaster at Northstar California has met some opposition despite unanimous approval from the Placer County Planning Commission.
The Aspen Grove Owners Association cited traffic and noise impact concerns among others in its appeal of the commission’s May 23 approval of the ski resort’s Forest Flyer.
“It’s a shell game they’re trying to play by not including all the ‘Epic Discovery, a Summer Mountain Adventure,’” said Bob Thornton, Aspen Grove Condo Association board president, citing Aspen Grove’s primary concern.
Vail’s multi million-dollar Epic Discovery plan is to bolster summer recreation at its resorts by adding zip lines, ropes courses, climbing walls, expanded hiking and mountain biking trails, interpretive centers and the Forest Flyer.
A few of those activities are proposed at Northstar, including the coaster.
The Forest Flyer is an all-weather, gravity-powered toboggan ride that travels on a raised steel track down the mountain through a forested setting, according to Northstar.
Riders would be able to board the flyer at mid-mountain just below the Vista Express Lift bottom terminal, and be carried uphill of the Village Express Lift to the coaster’s top terminal.
The downhill track will have curves, circles and dips. Speed of the ride will be controlled by passengers using braking levers and a second automatic braking system that maintains a maximum speed of 20-25 mph, said Brooke Rose, communications coordinator for Northstar.
“The Forest Flyer at Northstar further builds on the traditional reach of ski areas to connect individuals and families who may not otherwise visit the mountains or forest by allowing more diversity of ages and abilities to connect to the outdoors,” Rose said in an email.
Northstar has received comments supporting the project from Geoff Stephens, general manager of Northstar Property Owners Association; James Telling of Northstar Mountain Association; and Larry Danto, member of the North Tahoe Regional Advisory Council, among others, Rose said.
“We are in general support and with no major objections,” wrote Danto, a Northstar resident and vice president of the NPOA board of directors, in an email mentioning the Forest Flyer. “NPOA feels that, while not every person’s ideal, Vail has done a responsible job with the plan and has been responsive to our community’s concerns.”
The Forest Flyer project was originally submitted to Placer County in 2010 by the resort’s former owner, Booth Creek Ski Holdings, but due to environment and noise concerns raised by residents, the proposal was put on hold to be reassessed.
Vail’s proposal took those past concerns into consideration by relocating the Forest Flyer. The project was formerly proposed to run from the Northstar Village, adjacent to the Village Express Lift, with the top station just below Highlands View Drive. It has since been relocated to the mid-mountain area at the top of the Big Springs Express Gondola. Night operations have also been eliminated.
The Placer County Board of Supervisors will likely review Northstar’s proposal at the end of July, at which time additional public comment will be accepted.
If approved, the resort will evaluate where it stands in the summer building season and determine a construction start date.