Taos, NM – The Carson National Forest is until Feb. 27 accepting public comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Taos Ski Valley’s Master Development Plan Phase 1 Projects that would for the first time provide lift access to Kachina Peak and the West Basin Ridge.
Taos Ski Valley operates under a U.S. Forest Service special use permit for 1,268 acres. The last Master Development Plan (MDP) for Taos was issued in 1981. The 2010 MDP replaces that 30-year-old document and notes deficiencies including underutilized in-bounds ski terrain, an antiquated lift network, inadequate uphill capacity out of the base area, inadequate on-mountain guest facilities, and a lack of alternative winter and summer activities.
Much of Taos’ high alpine terrain can only be reached currently by a hike above the lifts, and the U.S. Forest Service ‘s preferred plan calls for the installation of two new lifts to access this popular high alpine terrain. The proposed Ridge lift would be an 800-foot fixed grip quad that would eliminate the hike to the West Basin Ridge at Taos. More spectacularly, the Main Street Lift would be a 2,560 foot fixed grip triple that would terminate at 12,450 feet of elevation, just below the summit of Kachina Peak. More than half of Taos’ current hike-to terrain would become lift served under the plan, but access to the resort’s Highline Ridge would remain for hikers only.
The proposal also calls for the upgrading three lifts at Taos Ski Valley. Lift 4, the only lift accessing the resort’s eastern portion, would be upgraded to a high-speed detachable quad, as would Lift 5 to improve uphill capacity out of the base area. The upgraded Lift 4 would also access the proposed new Main Street lift. Lift 7 in the center of the resort would be upgraded from a fixed-grip triple to a fixed-grip quad.
Two new gladed areas would be thinned for advanced intermediate to expert skiers, including nearly 32 acres in the Wild West Glades from the top of the West Basin Ridge to Lower Stauffenberg, and roughly 40 acres of forest in the Minnesotas Glades accessible from the bottom of Lift 7.
Under the preferred proposal a snow tubing area would be constructed on an acre and a half of mixed private and Forest Service land known as Strawberry Hill near the ski area’s existing Lift 3. It would feature four lanes ranging in length from 250 to 280 feet, with uphill transported provided by a 250-foot conveyor lift. The mountain biking trail would stretch for 3.6 miles from the top of Lift 1 to the base area.
Plans further call for the establishment of a snowshoe trail and development of a lift-served mountain bike trail to be available during the summer, along with reconfiguration of the parking lots and the development of a new drop-off area to improve the sense of arrival. All elements are expected to be completed over the next five to seven years, and none would require expanding or altering Taos Ski Valley’s 1,268-acre special use permit area.
The draft EIS can be reviewed at the Carson National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 208 Cruz Alta Road, in Taos or it is available to be read online. Comments should include names and addresses. Anonymous comments can be submitted but the anonymous commenter will not receive standing to participate in further review or appeals. Comments should be submitted to Forest Supervisor, DEIS for Taos Ski Valley, 208 Cruz Alta Road, Taos, New Mexico, 87571, telephone (575) 758-6200, fax (575) 758-6213. Comments may be submitted by email in MS-Word (.doc or .docx), Adobe (.pdf), rich text format (.rtf), text (.txt), and hypertext markup language (.html) to email@example.com. Include “Taos Ski Valley DEIS” in the subject line. Any organization submitting comments must either sign the comments or verify identity upon request. Names and addresses of people who comment will become part of the public record.