TAOS — The Carson National Forest is seeking comments on its draft environmental assessment for improvements proposed by Taos Ski Valley Inc., including a gondola project that would connect the resort’s frontside main base with the Kachina Basin.
The resort operates on U.S. Forest Service land under a special-use permit that will be up for renewal again in 2054. The agency approved the company’s updated master development plan in 2021, which included the proposed improvements.
The comment period, ending April 9, is the latest phase of the National Environmental Policy Act process. Taos Ski Valley expects construction to begin in the summer.
Under the proposal, Lift 2 and Lift 8, built in the 1990s, would be replaced with faster, higher-capacity lifts. A 33-acre, groomable cross-country ski and snowshoe trail area also would be developed.
The Whistlestop Café would be replaced with a facility double its size, with more bathrooms in an adjacent location that won’t interrupt skier flow. A new 7,000-square-foot restaurant also would be built near the top of Lift 7.
Additionally, a two-mile hiking trail would be constructed near Lift 4, Forest Supervisor James Duran said in a letter last year.
The 7,300-foot-long gondola would feature eight-person cabins, which could ferry 1,800 people an hour year-round. The goal of the gondola project is to alleviate traffic congestion and chronic maintenance issues along Twining Road and Kachina Road. However, the resort’s failed bid to purchase a piece of open space from the village of Taos Ski Valley leaves the project uncertain.
According to the environmental assessment, the village would need to provide an easement for the project to move forward. “VTSV is aware of this needed easement, and at this time supports the advancement of environmental review of this project,” the document states.
The resort’s water rights will not change, but it is proposing several improvements to its snowmaking infrastructure, including a new booster station at the base of Lift 2.
A public meeting about the assessment and how to submit written comments will be held from 6-7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Taos Tent, 7 Thunderbird Road, in the village of Taos Ski Valley.
“I know many in the community have eagerly been awaiting the release of the draft analysis,” Questa District Ranger Adam LaDell said in a news release. “I hope this helps further the discussion, and I look forward to engaging with the public at the meeting.”
A version of this story first appeared in The Taos News, a sister publication of The Santa Fe New Mexican.