The U.S. Forest Service on Friday released the first draft plans for a proposed expansion of Purgatory Resort, which is now up for public comment.
Purgatory Resort, about 25 miles north of Durango, operates on a special-use permit with the Forest Service, covering about 2,300 acres of skiable terrain.
In 2008, Purgatory Resort drafted a plan that looked at several areas of expansion. The currently proposed project, which is in the Ice Creek area, is located just east of the Hermosa Park Express (Lift 3).
The Forest Service this past summer started scoping and reviewing the proposed expansion, which also included a public comment period. Spokeswoman Lorena Williams said those comments were taken into account with the draft plan.
“(The scoping period) tries to accommodate all those good ideas and get public feedback from the beginning,” she said.
Purgatory Resort, for its part, hopes to expand its beginner to intermediate terrain.
Resort General Manager Dave Rathbun said the review over the past few months has resulted in a better proposed plan.
“I think it ended up being a better plan because we went through the analysis,” he said. “It did its job in our opinion.”
Rathbun said the ski resort’s proposed plan made some concessions as part of the view.
For one, the bottom terminal of a new proposed lift was realigned to move further away from wetlands and water impacted areas, and a new ski trail was adjusted to avoid a culturally historic wagon road.
The biggest change, Rathbun said, was realigning a snowmobile pass. As it stands, snowmobile outfitters must use an existing ski trail to get from the staging area at front side of Purgatory Resort to the network of snowmobile trails, which requires motorists to go against the grain of ski traffic.
Now, a new snowmobile bypass route offers an easier way for beginning and intermediate riders to get to the snowmobile trials.
Concerns from some members of the public, however, have been raised about impacts to lynx habitat and water quality.
Jimbo Buickerood with San Juan Citizens Alliance said the draft plan “completely ignores climate-related issues including the plan to install a new lift ... along with no suggestion that the ski area even consider carbon offsets for an uptick in their already significant greenhouse gas emissions.”
“Sad to say, but it’s apparent that corporations are still writing the rules for their profitable use of our commonly-owned public lands in 2021,” he said.
The draft plan is now up for public comment, which lasts until April 12.
Highlights of the proposed expansion of Purgatory Resort include:
A new 3,400-foot-long, three-person chairlift with a capacity of taking 2,400 skiers per hour into intermediate terrain in the Ice Creek area would be built. New roads to the area would stem from existing roads. New gates would be installed to restrict public access into the ski area in summer and winter. And new buried power lines would supply electricity to the top and bottom terminals.Four new trails would be constructed, providing 45 acres of skiable terrain, ending in the eastern end of Hermosa Park. About 23 acres of trees and vegetation would be removed, with the plan calling for avoiding wetlands.An estimated 250-foot segment of an existing snowmobile bypass trail at the junction of Hermosa Park Road (Forest Service Road 578) – also used by off-terrain vehicles in summer – would be rerouted to a new trail with a safer grade. This portion is on Purgatory Resort’s land and requires an easement from the U.S. government.Once on public land, an estimated 4,450-foot segment of the route would be improved, resulting in about 4 acres of tree removal. Snowmobilers would then be rerouted north and east on a new trail, about 2,900 feet in length until connecting to Cascade Divide Road (Forest Service Road 579). About 950 feet of the original route would be decommissioned and vegetated.At the junction of the snowmobile bypass and Forest Service Road 579, snowmobilers would be directed on an existing route known as Hermosa Shortcut for about 2,000 feet, ultimately reconnecting to Forest Service Road 578. Hermosa Shortcut would require limited vegetation clearing. The trails would be groomed by a snowmobile outfitter.For more information about Purgatory Resort’s proposed expansion, visit the Forest Service’s project website at https://bit.ly/3vlKbaC.
Public comments can be submitted online at https://bit.ly/30Ciz35 or sent to:
Kara Chadwick, Forest Supervisor, c/o Noel LudwigColumbine Ranger DistrictP.O. Box 439Bayfield, CO 81122.[email protected]