The proposed Bitterroot Resort passed an early hurdle from the Bitterroot National Forest on Monday.
“We passed our first screening,” said manager Jim Gill. “This is just one of many steps.”
The Bitterroot Resort seeks to develop as part of its four-season resort 3,000 acres of Forest Service land (down from the 12,000 originally requested in 2005) for gladed skiing, Nordic skiing, and mountain biking, none of which would require ski lifts to access.
The ski lifts, reaching about 6,000 feet, will only be on land owned by Tom Maclay, who plans to develop the resort on land owned by his longtime Missoula-area ranching family.
“We’ve got a vision for what kind of ski resort can be put on this mountain, and we want to disclose up front what we want. It’s a big complex project, and it’s hard to understand,” Gill said. “The implications — environmental, social and economic — are rather large, and that’s alarming to some people. It takes a while to explain, and that’s why it’s taking so long. The same goes for the Forest Service.”
The next step involves convincing Bitterroot Forest administrators that the Bitterroot Resort has the technical and financial capabilities to carry out its plans.
Gill declined to disclose information about the resort’s finances, saying only that Maclay has spent millions on engineering and other upfront costs. The resort has five employees. Gill has previously said the resort, with its relatively light debt load and overhead, can afford to be patient.
Gill said he hopes to get back to the Forest Service for the next step by next week. He has no prediction about when the Forest Service might respond.
The proposal which passed the initial screening process Monday involved guided ski touring of the Carlton Lake Basin, alpine glade skiing and a mountain bike trail system on the Bitterroot National Forest.
After the next level of scrutiny, the Bitterroot Resort will conduct an environmental impact study.