RENO, NEV. — The U.S. Forest Service has approved the expansion of a ski resort on a national forest between Reno and Lake Tahoe, including a skier bridge over a highway as part of a package that also bans commercial development in areas cherished by conservationists and back-country enthusiasts.
The expansion allows for construction of a five-million-gallon water tank that will boost snow-making capabilities in an effort to transform the Mount Rose resort into a “key destination attraction,” agency officials said.
In the works for more than seven years, it will provide new skiing and snowboarding terrain especially for beginners and those with less-advanced skills about 16 kilometres northeast of Lake Tahoe 40 kilometres southwest of downtown Reno.
“I think it’s a good compromise,” Humboldt-Toiyabe Forest Supervisor Bill Dunkelberger said while signing the formal record of decision for a new special use permit. “It’s been a long, long road.”
Original expansion plans opposed by conservationists have been revised several times since the Forest Service started assessing potential environmental impacts in December 2012.
“I think we’ve come up with the best decision that authorizes the ski area to expand, provide additional terrain for a variety of users and also protects the national forest and the resources on the forest,” Dunkelberger said.
Rose Strickland, a longtime local leader of the Sierra Club and spokesperson for Friends of Mount Rose, cheered the new agreement.
Conservationists have been working for more than three decades to help protect the natural environment around the resort, Strickland said.
She said that stretch of the Sierra Nevada’s Carson Range long has been treasured by hikers, campers, mountain bikers, birdwatchers, back-country skiers and snow-shoers.
Skiers will be able to cross a specially made bridge-overpass near main entrance to the Mount Rose resort to access the new Atoma Area to the north or the highway toward Reno between the resort and the Sky Tavern slopes further below used by area youth programs. A new two-stage chairlift is planned and 11 new ski trails.
Dating to 1953, the resort is known for its abundance of advanced and expert terrain, but struggles to provide a full extent and variety of lower-ability level terrain, the Forest Service said.
Backers of the expansion plan said artificial snow-making has become critical for the resort that primarily attracts day skiers, particularly during the weekend and holiday periods.
The new water tank will allow the resort to meet the needs of visitors during the early season and periods of limited snow by maximizing the amount of snow produced during optimal snow-making conditions and temperatures, the service said.
With the exception of the 112-acre Atoma Area and the 168-acre Chutes area, the new amendment to the forest management plan prohibits commercial development throughout the remainder of the 3,446 acres acquired in a land exchange in 1994.