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[sunapee mountain]Mt. Sunapee Ski expansion part of 5-year plan

  The long-debated expansion of Mount Sunapee Ski Area into the West Bowl, including a mile-long chairlift, new lodge and new sewage system, is front and center of the area’s first master plan since it was bought by Vail Resorts.

  The five-year plan, covering through 2025, does not give any timetable for a West Bowl expansion or any other proposed changes, which include swapping the Sunapee Express chairlift for a six-person chair that might become a gondola.

  The master plan is required by the state, which owns the 968-acre site and leases it to private operators. Comments can be made in an online public hearing Nov. 5, via WebEx. Written comments can be sent to MountSunapeeComments@dncr.nh.gov or mailed to 172 Pembroke Road, Concord, NH 03301. The deadline for written comments is Nov. 12.

  The question of whether the state should let Mount Sunapee expand skiable terrain has been debated for close to a decade. Proponents describe it as necessary for the continued operation of the largest ski area in southern New Hampshire, while opponents criticized its environmental and financial implications.

  In 2016 the Executive Council approved the plan but the area’s previous operators, Tim and Diane Mueller, never proceeded. When national ski conglomerate Vail Resorts bought Mount Sunapee in 2018, the issue came up again and the Executive Council approved it again as part of transferring the lease. Any actual construction would need the OK of the state Division of Natural and Cultural Resources and local planning authorities.

  The master plan says that if everything was built, the area’s “comfortable carrying capacity” would expand by about two-fifths, from 4,820 skiers right now to 6,850. Importantly, the master plan says this would not require any more water supply because the permit to take water from nearby Lake Sunapee is “sufficient to accommodate the proposed increases in snowmaking coverage for the additional ski trails.”

  Mount Sunapee Ski Area has 234 acres of developed trails, including 17 acres of glade skiing under trees. In total, the proposed increases would add 105 acres of terrain and glades, 56 acres of which would be in the West Bowl.

  As proposed, the West Bowl would include a new lodge and parking area on the opposite side of the mountain from the current lodge, reached via Brook Road rather than Mount Sunapee Road. A proposed mile-long chairlift would rise 1,000 feet and deposit skiers near the Summit Lodge, creating a skiable connection between the current area and West Bowl.

  West Bowl plans include a new beginner area, two new low intermediate runs, two new intermediate runs, and one new advanced intermediate level runs.

  (David Brooks can be reached at 369-3313 or dbrooks@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @GraniteGeek.)

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