FARMINGTON — Plenty of turns will still have to be earned, but a lift may soon provide access to some of the toughest, steepest and highest ski trails in New Mexico.
Carson National Forest officials approved several projects Taos Ski Valley has planned for its existing boundaries within the national forest.
One of the projects is adding a lift called Main Street Lift, which would take riders to the summit of Kachina Peak, a 12,481-foot mountain Taos skiers and snowboarders occasionally hike.
Main Street Lift “makes the most spectacular skiing in North America lift accessible,” said Gordon Briner, the chief operating officer of Taos Ski Valley.
Diana Trujillo, the acting forest supervisor, recently approved the ski valley’s plan.
The schedule for completing the long list of projects is yet to be determined, but the ski area wants to move quickly, Briner said.
“We’d like to start relatively soon,” he said. “At this time we are developing our time line for the projects.”
Trujillo wrote in her 24-page decision to grant the ski valley’s project request that the lift to Kachina Peak was the most controversial aspect of the project.
Many skiers and snowboarders who hike Kachina Peak and ride down it appreciate the solitude that comes with the hour or so long hike it takes to get from the highest lift in the ski area to the peak.
Briner said those looking for solace don’t need to worry about the lift. Of Taos’ hike-to terrain, only 50 percent will be serviced by a lift once the improvement projects are completed.
Because riders can reach Kachina’s summit by lift, the existing hike-to terrain, which is along a ridge that leads to Kachina Peak and is above several steep chutes, will be less crowded, Briner said.
“There’s going to be a balance,” he said.
Trujillo said she approved the Main Street Lift because few guests to the ski valley currently attempt to summit Kachina Peak. Of 2,000 skiers and riders at the ski valley, only about 400 would be expected to take advantage of the hike-to terrain and only 80 of those riders will attempt to reach the top of the peak, she said.
The list of improvement projects is intended to make Taos competitive as a ski destination in the Rocky Mountains while still maintaining its ambiance as a quiet family-owned, ski area that doesn’t have the same atmosphere as central Colorado’s popular resorts, Briner said.
Other improvements on the project list include replacing several existing lifts, reconfiguring the parking lot and creating a tubing area and mountain biking trail system.
The ski area currently doesn’t have any mountain biking trails, which Briner said are needed to attract summer visitors.
Kathy DeLucas, a spokeswoman for the Carson National Forest, said Taos Sky Valley is one of three ski areas within the national forest. The ski valley has developed 1,268 acres and the current project will not extend any of its current boundaries.
DeLucas said the recent decision to approve the ski valley’s projects can still be appealed.
Taos Ski Valley was developed by the Blake family in 1955 and the family, which is now in its third generation of operating the ski area, has been the sole owner since it was built, Briner said.