Quest for Iron Mountain Ski Resort continues |

Quest for Iron Mountain Ski Resort continues

Emily Aughinbaugh

Owner Pat Owens is not giving up his quest to open Iron Mountain Ski Resort despite recent roadblocks the U.S. Forest Service has put in his way.

The Forest Service amended the El Dorado National Forest Land and Resource Management Plan last week, delisting part of Iron Mountain as an existing and potential winter sports site.

Iron Mountain, located just southwest of Kirkwood Mountain Resort, was redesignated as roaded natural high country – a designation Owens said he’ll fight.

“We’re going to appeal (the Forest Service decision),” Owens said. “We’re going to really go after it. We’re not giving up.”

Owens said Forest Service Supervisor John Berry made his decision based on poor information, but Amador District Ranger Judy Yandoh argued that Owens’ resort would never get off the ground.

“Our decision was based on the lack of financial viability of the site,” Yandoh said. “The past financial failure of the site was just a symptom of a variety of other issues.”

Iron Mountain closed in 1994 due to bankruptcy, and Yandoh said the lack of physical viability along with it being in a competitive market with Kirkwood are just a couple of reasons why the Forest Service delisted the site.

Although the economic implications of the resort have always been an issue with the Forest Service, Owens said it wouldn’t cost the agency anything if he failed.

“The mountain has the physical attributes it takes to make a ski resort, and from an economic standpoint we showed the mountain could work,” Owens said, referring to the economic and physical viability studies he commissioned. “It’s amazing that the (Forest Service) has so much power that it can shut down local commerce.”

Frank Mosbacher, public information officer for the Eldorado National Forest, said anyone who was involved with the Forest Service’s review of the Iron Mountain site or participated in the public comment period has until March 9 to appeal.

El Dorado County Supervisor Helen Baumann said she was reviewing the county’s history with the Iron Mountain issue and would consult county counsel to see what options were available to the county.

El Dorado County sent a resolution of support for Owens’ venture to the Forest Service in October at the urging of Baumann’s predecessor Supervisor Ray Nutting so the county would be considered a stakeholder during the appeals process, Nutting said.

Owens said he hopes the Forest Service will respond positively to his appeal, but said he won’t quit without a fight.

“If we have to we’ll file a lawsuit, but I don’t think it will go that far,” he said.

Owens has been trying to obtain a Forest Service permit to open his 1,600 acre resort since last February. Iron Mountain has five lifts, 700 skiable acres, 1,350 vertical feet and a two-mile run.

Owens said the ski resort would be marketed to family, beginner and intermediate skiers from the Sacramento and San Joaquin areas.

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