Ski Areas Feel Heat of Wildfire Season in West

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Publish Date

06/06/2011

SAM Magazine-Taos, N.M., June 6, 2011-Spiking temperatures over the past week have kicked off the western wildfire season, and ski areas are starting to feel the heat.

Last week, the Osha wildfire in northern New Mexico threatened the Sipapu Ski Area, forcing residents to evacuate the area. The fire is blamed on downed power lines from a fallen tree. Currently more than 400 firefighters are on the blaze, and the fire is 81-percent contained-after burning approximately 720 acres. Closures remain in effect in and around the burn zone, but highway 518 to Sipapu has just been reopened. With the recent containment, Sipapu is expected to remain unscathed.

In Colorado last week, crews faced down a fire less than ½ a mile from Keystone's boundary. The blaze, which burned less than 20 acres west of the ski area, was linked to a logging operation, although the cause has not been determined. Twenty people were evacuated from homes and condominiums in the area as a precaution, but no structures have burned, and the evacuation was short lived. "We were very lucky that we did not lose any structures," Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue deputy chief Jeff Berino told the Summit Daily News.

Keystone Resort was not endangered by the blaze, but resort staff prepared snowmaking equipment to fight fire as a precaution. "We can dump a lot of water on it very quickly," Keystone Resort spokesman Ryan Whaley told the News. "It's not threatening the resort at this time, but if it does, we're ready to rock."