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Purgatory Resort: San Juan National Forest Issues Ice Creek Project Environmental Assessment Decision Notice

Durango, Colo.,— The U.S. Forest Service issued the Decision Notice for the Ice Creek Project Environmental Assessment, approving the Ice Creek Project. The project is located within Purgatory Resort (Purgatory), La Plata County, Colorado. All components of the proposed action will occur within Purgatory’s existing special use permit (SUP) area, except a portion of the snowmobile by- pass trail that is outside the SUP area, and will result in a total of approximately 38 acres of disturbance. Components of the proposed project at Purgatory Resort consist of a new chairlift, four new ski trails, and a snowmobile access reroute.

Ice Creek Lift

A fixed grip three-person lift will be installed to access approved low-intermediate terrain in the Ice Creek area at the north-central edge of the Special Use Permit (SUP) boundary. The approximately 3,400-foot-long Ice Creek lift will also improve egress from the Hermosa Park area. The Ice Creek lift will require approximately 2.5 acres of overstory vegetation removal and 0.5 acre of grading.

Construction and maintenance access will be provided to the top and bottom terminals via two new permanent access roads stemming from existing roads. The access roads will be maintenance level 2 system administrative use only roads behind gates to be kept closed year-round. Their administrative use will be authorized under Purgatory’s SUP. The combined length of the new access roads will be approximately 1,070 feet. New buried powerlines will supply electricity to the top and bottom terminals of Ice Creek lift. The approved powerlines will be trenched into the approved construction access roads and existing roads and will be sourced from Purgatory’s existing network of powerlines.

Ice Creek Terrain

Four trails will be constructed to provide approximately 45 acres of developed skiing terrain. These trails will take advantage of natural vegetation and would terminate in the eastern end of Hermosa Park. Approximately 23 acres of over-story vegetation will be removed via ground-based skidding equipment, except within specific areas that overlap with sensitive (e.g., cultural and wetland) resources. The Construction Management Plan, required prior to construction, shall specify clearing and removal techniques.

Snowmobile Access Improvements

At the junction of Hermosa Park Road (NFSR 578) and the snowmobile bypass trail, an approximately 250-foot segment of the existing snowmobile bypass trail will be rerouted with a reduced grade to address safety concerns for beginner snowmobilers. The trail will be graded to accommodate a previously approved 62-inch tread width for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use in the summer, and the lower end will be gated to prevent summer OHV use. This segment of trail is on private land owned by Purgatory and will require an easement to be granted to the United States.

After crossing on to public land, an approximately 4,450-foot segment of the existing snowmobile bypass route will receive improvements for snowmobile and previously approved OHV use, resulting in approximately 4 acres of grading and incidental tree removal. Snowmobilers will then be rerouted north and east on a new trail segment approximately 2,900 feet in length, until connecting to Cascade Divide Road (NFSR 579). Approximately 950 feet of the original snowmobile bypass trail will be decommissioned and revegetated by Purgatory.

At the junction of the snowmobile bypass and NFSR 579, snowmobilers will be directed down an existing snowmobile trail, referred to as the Hermosa Shortcut, for approximately 2,080 feet, momentarily exiting the Purgatory SUP area until reentering and connecting with NFSR 578. The Hermosa Shortcut will require limited vegetation clearing within the trail corridor. This trail segment will be groomed by a guided snowmobile outfitter with a Forest Service-issued SUP that currently operates out of Purgatory Village.

A mixture of over-snow skidding and piling and burning will be used for timber removal along the snowmobile bypass trail. Purgatory will implement the snowmobile access improvement projects prior to or concurrent with the approved Ice Creek lift and ski terrain.

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