Taos Ski Valley is in the final stages of crafting a new Master Development Plan which will guide improvements at the ski area over the next decade. The big news is the resort seeks to build a second gondola from the Resort Center to Kachina Basin, which would spin in both winter and summer and relieve pressure off Lifts 1 and 2. “This is probably the number one request we’ve received,” said Director of Operations John Kelly at a public forum last week. He called the gondola a “better and more efficient way to move people between the main base area to the backside and Kachina Basin.” This signature lift would span approximately 7,200 feet with a vertical rise around 850 feet. Capacity and cabin size have not yet determined but the gondola would accommodate bikes and improve access to summer operations surrounding Lift 4.
Taos also intends to replace six existing lifts. “We’ve made some really great strides in the last couple years replacing the old Strawberry Hill lifts, Lift 1 and adding Kachina Peak but the remainder of our lifts are pushing 30 to 40 years old,” said Kelly. “We have an incredible lift maintenance team that will keep these lifts going safely as long as we need but at some point we need to upgrade to new infrastructure, technology and faster uphill capacity.” Top priorities are the aforementioned Lifts 2 and 4, both early ’90s Poma fixed quads with long ride times. Later in the decade, Taos looks to address Lifts 7 and 7A, the last two remaining Stadeli machines on the hill. Taos will also consider replacing Lifts 8 and Pioneer (to accommodate the gondola and improve the layout for beginners.) New lifts will utilize a mix of fixed and detachable technology. One project from the 2010 master plan which will no longer proceed is the Ridge lift, proposed for West Basin near Lift 8. Taos would like to keep current hike-to ridge access as is.
Unlike many mountains releasing new master plans these days, Taos does not want to expand its permit area or grow skier visits. “Being surrounded by wilderness is a competitive advantage for our resort,” said Kelly. In fact, the new plan is designed to comfortably accommodate 280,000 to 300,000 annual skiers, down from around 350,000 the resort attracted in the mid-1990s. The resort does seek to expand summer visitation, which will focus on natural activities such as hiking, via ferrata and mountain biking rather than coasters or zip lines. “We really think nature-based recreation is what’s best for Taos and supports our better, not bigger philosophy,” noted Kelly.
Comments may be sent to MDPFeedback@skitaos.com before the plan heads to the Forest Service in a few weeks. Once the final plan is accepted, individual projects will still be subject to environmental review and public comment periods before being implemented.