Elimination of the Valcotos alpine ski resort
From the last century sixties years emerges a different approach to the use of the mountain, based on great resorts for the practice of alpine skiing. The making in 1969 of the Valcotos ski resort, caused the destruction or alteration of valuable ecosystems and unique formations having glacial origin, in the Peñalara area. Fortunately, the real estate development projects planned for this area were stopped since they disobeyed the urban legislation provisions, avoiding an even greater disaster. The figures on the ski resort give an idea of the extent the transformation suffered: opening of 6 Alpine ski tracks with a surface area over 24 hectares; 11 ski lifts lines were built, that is about 6 kilometers of path, a hundred bollards or posts for the route and more than 20 facilities. The damage included the removal of vegetation, the destruction of the glacial geomorphological elements, removing and levelling land, soil erosion and gully formation, impact on the landscape, etc.
In 1999 the works to recover the affected ecosystems started, and although the most obvious were conducted between the turn of the century, revegetation work, improvement and follow-up of the proceedings remain at present. A summary of the work carried out would be as follows:
The project goals
The environmental restoration project was carried out with the following purposes:
a) To restore the natural environment damaged elements: geomorphology, land cover, visual quality of the landscape, etc. with the smallest possible intervention.
b) To check the environmental problems: minimizing the environmental impacts (erosion, proliferation of trails, preservation and maintenance of ecosystems).
c) To adapt the facilities and hospitality areas around Los Cotos Pass for the Peñalara Massif visitors (conditioning of access points and car parking lots, spills treatment, landscape adaptation, installation of self-interpretative elements and signals).
d) To regulate the uses consistently with the conservation of the natural environment.
The ambitious project of ecological restoration was undertaken in three phases:
Dismantling the artificial infrastructure
The first phase of the Valcotos environmental restoration took place during 1999 and consisted on the elimination of facilities connected with the practice of alpine skiing. The dismantling process included the demolition and removal of the bollards, the foundation blocks, the buildings, and the ski resort lifts. Similarly, a large amount of debris and residues in the area, which had been accumulated during the construction and operation of the station, were removed.
A key factor in the dismantling was to avoid damage in the areas adjacent to the working points. For this reason, the heavy machinery use was restricted to those points which could be accessed through the proper affected areas. In the rest of the areas (for example, bollards located in relatively little altered or very isolated areas) manual machinery was used machinery in the demolitions. The evacuation of debris and remains of the station was carried out using helicopters and pack animals to avoid conditioning the tracks or opening new ones for the passage of trucks.
The main factors affecting those jobs were the high gradients, the fragile soil, climatic conditions, and the high number of visitors while the works were on.