Miles from the Village, the 885-acre Blue Sky Basin has been a must-explore-spot for Vail skiers for 10 years. The popular woodsy terrain beyond the mountain's Back Bowls is blessed with plenty of snow, tight trees, steeps, open powder fields, and even a few groomers. On bluebird day, there are plenty of skiers and riders grilling everything from brats to asparagus on one of the grills at the top of the Skyline Express Lift. But when Vail proposed the mountain expansion more than a decade ago, its picture wasn't so rosy.
Environmental groups protested the $14-million plan, saying the area was prime habitat for the Canada lynx, according to a Vail Daily article that runs down the history of the controversial expansion.
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While these protesters went to extremes to try and stop Vail's Category III expansion, now known as Blue Sky Basin, the most extreme protest came when members of the Earth Liberation Front chose arson as their method of protest, scorching three buildings and damaging four chairlifts at Vail Mountain on Oct. 19, 1998. It was the worst act of eco-terrorism in the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said at the time.
Vail rebuilt the Two Elk Lodge, which was lost in the fires, and made it bigger and better than before. The property that was lost in the fires was all rebuilt, with costs covered by insurance money. The environmentalists may have spoken, but they didn't succeed in stopping the expansion from happening -- not by a long shot.
The U.S. Forest Service eventually approved the expansion. Read the Vail Daily article for more about the anniversary.