Norwood, CO (July 16, 2015) – The U.S. Forest Service released a decision for the Matterhorn and Trout Lake Nordic ski trails which are located on the Norwood Ranger District, Uncompahgre National Forest.
District Ranger Judy Schutza approved construction of the Hidden Valley Trail, a 1.0 kilometer ski trail located within the Matterhorn Nordic trail system. There were no issues raised about the project during the 3-week scoping period that ended on June 19, 2015 and the project has wide public support.
Schutza decided to take “No Action” on the trails in the Trout Lake Nordic trail system. Specifically, this decision includes:
· There will be no change in grooming on the Trout Lake railroad grade (FSR 626). This existing 5.0 kilometer ski trail will continue to be groomed from the Trout parking area to Lizard Head Pass as it has been in the past.
· The proposed 1.9 kilometers of new groomed ski trails in the Lizard Head Meadows will not be approved for grooming. There will be no expansion of ski trails on the GMUG portion of the Trout Nordic trail system.
· The Norwood District will work with the Telluride Nordic Association to develop a slide mitigation plan to address the slide hazard on the upper railroad grade.
Ranger Schutza cited that there was a widespread lack of support for eliminating grooming on the upper railroad grade. Several commenters expressed concern that eliminating this trail segment would shift some of the skier traffic from the top of Lizard Head Pass to the Trout Lake Road and Trout parking area resulting in increased traffic congestion and associated safety concerns.
In the decision, Schutza stated that the Trout Nordic trail system should not expand unless additional parking capacity is provided. Adding new trails without providing additional parking would merely attract more skiers, resulting in an increase in traffic impacts to the Trout Lake Road and Trout parking area.
Providing additional skier parking at the existing Lizard Head Overlook (located on the north side of Highway 145 on Lizard Head Pass) is an idea that was raised during the scoping process. While this idea has merit, it also raises a host of new issues. The Forest Service believes that providing skier parking at the Overlook is not a feasible alternative because skiers would have to cross the highway at a very unsafe location.
Another idea offered during scoping was to construct a new skier parking area on the south side of Highway 145 at Lizard Head Pass. This idea raises additional questions such as the high cost of construction, the potential need for acceleration/deceleration lanes on the highway, plowing and grooming costs in an area with significant wind and snow drifting, and the effects of putting groomed Nordic trails in an open snowmobile play area.
The details of this decision are documented in a Categorical Exclusion/Decision Memo that is posted on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre, and Gunnison National Forest website athttp://www.fs.usda.gov/projects/gmug/landmanagement/projects