Smugglers’ Notch and Stowe pause plan to build connector lift
Two ski resorts have paused their plans to build a half-mile-long connector lift after state regulators raised concerns about the environmental impact of the project.
On Monday, Smugglers' Notch and Stowe Mountain Resort withdrew their application to the Agency of Natural Resources. The News and Citizen first reported the story.
“We're taking a pause and evaluating the approach we've been taking,” said Bill Stritzler, managing director at Smugglers' Notch. “And we'll make a determination of how we go forward in the future.”
The resorts are planning to conduct a study on how the connector lift could affect the region’s economy, said Stritzler.
“That'll be the focus of our work as we go forward,” he said. “The question is the relative importance of the economic issues compared to the importance of the environmental issues.”
The question is the relative importance of the economic issues compared to the importance of the environmental issues.Bill Stritzler, managing director at Smugglers' Notch
The project would connect Stowe's Spruce Peak and Smugglers' Sterling Mountain using a gondola-style lift. The resorts have been exploring the project for at least six years, according to documents from the ANR.
The proposed lift could carry 1,200 people an hour between Smugglers’ Notch, one of the last independently owned ski areas in the state, and Stowe, which is owned by Vail, a massive ski-conglomerate with resorts across the country, and in Canada and Australia.
A spokesperson for Vail did not respond to a request for comment.
ANR Secretary Julie Moore said her staff raised a number of significant concerns about the project.
“We will continue to discuss this internally so that if and when Smuggs might decide to have the next version of the conversation about this proposal, we can help continue to articulate and have them understand our concern,” Moore said.
In a memo from Sept. 19, ANR staffers with the Barre District Stewardship Team raised several concerns about the proposal, including that the project could affect a dozen wetlands, rare plants and birds, and would go against the state’s existing land-use goals for the area.
“The DST has carefully reviewed and considered this proposal and unanimously agrees that this project is not compatible with [Forests, Parks, and Recreation’s] ownership interests and responsibilities and should not be supported,” wrote Brad Greenough, Stewardship Forester in the memo.
The district stewardship team also raised concerns that the lift, which would go over the Long Trail and Sterling Pond, would negatively impact the experience of hikers and would damage the “natural aesthetic of Smugglers’ Notch.”
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