TSV NOW WANTS EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE PUBLIC PARKING LOTS

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TSV NOW WANTS EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE PUBLIC PARKING LOTS

Postby JBella » Wed Dec 11, 2019 2:43 pm

Nothing like getting down to the trailhead at 6pm after a long day skiing in the backcountry, ready to drop your gear and head to the cantina for a beer or somewhere to grab a bite to eat. And then - realizing you get to walk a half mile through a parking lot which may be nearly empty to get to your car because @skitaos wants the entire upper parking lot for them, their employees, and no one else to use! And if you're backcountry camping, or otherwise wish to park your car on this PUBLIC PARKING LOT ON THE CARSON NATIONAL FOREST, the ski area is suddenly telling people for all overnight parking they have to use a different lot further down the road, the Deer lot which is roughly a half mile from the trailhead, and across NM Highway 150. Unless of course you want to pay $ to the ski area to park on our Public Lands on their paid parking sites, or stay at their hotel, because they've conveniently claimed much of the middle lot for these purposes as a service for their "guests".

At least that is what Taos Ski Valley, Inc. wants and is trying to do with the upper parking lot which is the formal trailhead for the Wheeler Peak Trail #90 and has always been freely available as a public lot for anyone to use, including the ski area, their customers and their employees. The Carson National Forest knows about this issue, I'll share the letter I wrote to them also, and comments have been going back and forth on social media for a while, but I'm posting this here for anyone who isn't yet aware of this situation. Please see the pictures from December 4th. Please contact the Carson National Forest to provide your insight, opinions and comments. This is not cool on the ski area's part and we need to stop it to maintain open and equal access at this trailhead.

Thanks

Link to USFS site for the Wheeler Peak Trail #90 - https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/carson/ ... &actid=104

Link to @TaosBC instagram post about this, with several public comments; https://www.instagram.com/p/B54dMsoloBq/

Link to @SkiTaos instagram post which includes comments about this; https://www.instagram.com/p/B53oLhaloyo/

Carson NF contact page - https://www.fs.usda.gov/carson/

Pics from December 4th;

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Last edited by JBella on Wed Dec 11, 2019 2:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TSV NOW WANTS EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE PUBLIC PARKING LOTS

Postby JBella » Wed Dec 11, 2019 2:48 pm

Copy of my comments I emailed to the Carson NF detailing some points of why TSV's actions are not acceptable;

Hello,

I am writing this letter to contribute my thoughts and discuss an issue which has recently arisen in Taos Ski Valley, regarding the ski area's use of the upper parking lot adjacent to the Twining Campground, and within the Village of Taos Ski Valley which is effectively the formal trailhead for the Wheeler Peak Trail #90 - https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/carson/ ... &actid=104, and also referred to as the Coyote lot.

Specifically this is about the ski area recently posting signs indicating they are now laying exclusive claim to this parking lot, to be used only by their employees. These signs are posted directly in front of the Carson National Forest signs by the bottom of Twining Road, and towards the lower section approximately 525' east from where the lot merges with New Mexico State Hwy. 150. The issue here may be obvious and has been noticed by several members of our community during the past week - this parking lot is and has for a long time been available for anyone to use as it is immediately adjacent to the Twining Camground and beginning of the Wheeler Peak Trail #90, I'm sure some of you know that a section of trail was built a few years ago beginning by the Carson NF signs and connecting with the main trail by the restroom and stairs so that trail users no longer need to hike the short distance up Twining Road to reach the trail. While this may seem to be more of a summer thing, it's important to note there is a dedicated backcountry skiing culture within our community who uses this trailhead regularly, as well as various other trail users who reside locally and travel from different places. On a typical weekday during the winter a few to several people use this access point, on busy weekends or holidays over the years I have encountered several dozens of people hiking or skiing from this point, and that's only during the times I've been on the actual trail route myself. Other days I've been travelling through the lot and noticed groups carrying packs, snowshoes, skis or hauling other gear from their vehicles to use this access point. Various types of recreationists use this trail during the winter - hikers, snowshoers, backcountry skiers and snowboarders, peak baggers, and other user groups some who may be camping in the wilderness or at the Twining campground overnight or for a few nights - this includes persons staying at the Bull of the Woods yurt whom have always had access to the trailhead from this parking lot. If this lot is not available the nearest parking is much further away, up to a half mile if people have to park along Ocean Blvd. where the ski area's designated RV locations are, in my opinion this is not a reasonable expectation. Taos Ski Valley, Inc. needs to understand that this is land they are permitted to use alongside others, it is not their own private property, and not everyone who comes to the Village of Taos Ski Valley is their customer - many people come here to enjoy our National Forest and do not wish to pay to ride the lifts and ski!

The ski area's actions here indicate a clear disregard for, or complete ignorance towards the historical integrity of our Public Lands and this specific access point - the ski area is only one stakeholder and is clearly putting their own desires in front of the community's by threatening to boot and/or tow any vehicles which do not belong to their employees, or which are left parked here overnight - this is a disrespectul way to try to accomodate only their own needs.

Please refer to the photographs attached to this email which were taken on December 4th, 2019. Winter access to our trails has always been tricky, some of the lower elevation trailheads such as Gavilan and Italianos are difficult to access as the parking areas along the road are usually plowed in with snow, Manzanita and Yerba are often similarly inaccessible. The day I took these photographs, I had been skiing in Gavilan Canyon previously and had to request permission to park at the Austing Haus, which would not be an option during the busier times of year. As well the William's Lake trailhead is often left unmaintained and unplowed for several days after a storm - in previous years backcountry trail users had always been able to park by the Phoenix Lodge but now are being told they can't park there anymore. So when yet another access point is being threatened, and the ski area is solely claiming it is only for them to use, it can be expected that that will create conflict and is absolutely not in the community's best interest.

Some other points to consider - regarding overnight parking by the Twining campground - I understand not wanting people living in their vehicles in the parking lot for extended periods of time, and how a vehicle parked for more than a reasonable time frame can interfere with snow removal, I agree it's proper for anyone camping or residing in their vehicle who is working at the ski area to be asked to park in a different location designated for RV's and multi-night stays, same goes for guests of the ski area who may be staying for several days and using the lifts. Aside from these specific situations it needs to be considered that the upper parking lot is the most direct access point in Twining for the eastern portions of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness and what is now the Columbine-Hondo Wilderness including the Wheeler Peak Trail #90, Long Canyon Trail #63, Gold Hill and Goose Lake Trails, and several others connecting various peaks and drainages with other roads and access points in Red River and Questa. Because of this fact, parking here should be freely open for anyone enjoying our public lands, including overnight parking and without threat of vehicle(s) being booted or towed. One example that I can personally attest to - my friends and I often meet at this trailhead early in the morning and ski up Gold Hill to watch the sun rise then enjoy a day of touring in the wilderness before returning. I've been up there so many times during the past 12 years that I've come to recognize individual bighorn sheep and have watched some of them grow from young creatures to intrepid, mature rams. I've met several people along these trails, some are locals who have become friends and others who were here for a specific hike, many great conversations with people on that trail. Never before have I experienced any problems parking in that lot. I stongly believe that if someone wants to drive to this trailhead, park and hike or sleep in their vehicle for a few hours then get an alpine start, at say 3:30am, they should be able to - it is again unreasonable to expect Public Land users not to park at a trailhead early in the morning or late at night, or at any time when there are plenty of open parking spaces available. There is plenty of room here, the area between the signs that the ski area posted is exceptionally much larger than has ever been necessary for all of their employees to park on any day.

Another point I wish to make is how the ski area is using the space they have already been alotted - one issue being the fact that we gave up some campsites in the Twining Campground so the shuttle pick up/drop off could be extended and improved, now this area is not being used for the shuttles but for the ski area's own hotel parking, and other nearby areas in the lower parking lots closer to the village have now been designated as paid parking sites - I don't feel it's right that the ski area requested space for one thing and is now using it a for a different use, and their own exclusive benefit. Hopefully the extended shuttle drop off may again be used for that purpose once the construction development on Thunderbird road currently underway has been completed, it just seems real convenient for the ski area that they now are using this location for their own hotel which does not benefit the public. Also is it proper that they should be able to designate a large portion of the lots as paid parking, for their own profit, while attempting to restrict access to the parking lot by an important trailhead? I believe a long-standing intent of allowing ski areas to operate on public lands is to provide recreation opportunities - in this regard it's one thing to require people purchase a lift ticket to use the lift services, it's a completely different situation when the ski area tries to influence people to have to pay to park on Public Lands or park much further away especially people who are enjoying lands which the ski area's permitted operating area is adjacent to and does not include.

Another important point to consider regarding proximity to the trailhead - what if someone is camping in the forest, or staying at the yurt, and any emergency arises which requires them to evac and head down the trail late at night - what if they had parked by the trailhead and get down to their vehicle and find it has been booted, towed, or is otherwise inoperable, and they are unable to access supplies or transportation to necessary care? The signs that the ski area have posted are not permanent fixtures like the Carson National Forest and "Access to Wheeler Peak Wilderness" signs are, the ski area's signs are attached to moveable posts, they may for whatever reason not be present when someone arrives at this parking lot - and if they are not, and someone parks in this lot and their vehicle is booted or towed there could be no reasonable expectation for anyone to know this would happen. This, to me indicates the ski area didn't think their actions through and has acted hastily, likely upon their own recognizance, and without care for how these actions will affect their relationship with our community. It is not the first time they have done something like this, and without too much speculation I believe it will not be the last time as it has shown to be a recurring trend with this company believing they should be able to do whatever they want, regardless of how their actions affect others.

There are other reasons I could list, however I believe I've covered the most important points. All in all this seems to be just a strong-armed approach by the ski area that is not necessary, it does not benefit our community to place signs with such threatening demeanor and does not seem to be in tune with the intent of allowing them to use these parking lots, or any public lands on which they operate their business. The lands which this specific parking lot provides access to are clearly not within the ski area's SUP boundaries and it's importatant that anyone and everyone can rely on equal access to these lands. Given how riled up some people have already become about these signs I'd say it has already been a negative deterent for our community, during the past week I've overheard two converstations about this, one with an albeit aggressive tone so I didn't get involved, and three other people have contacted me to ask if I know anything about what the deal is with these signs - I recommended to two of them to contact the Forest Service and contribute their thoughts, 'cause I know these two folks are also avid backcountry skiers who have lived in this area for some time.

In summary, to maintain the integrity of the lands and trails within this specific area on the Carson National Forest I believe this parking lot should continue to be freely accessible for everyone to use and not exclusive to ski area employees. If they want to have a their own employee-only lot, perhaps they could consider using a different area for that purpose, and not the area that is adjacent to and includes an important, historic and well-loved trailhead for one of the more popular trails in northern New Mexico, one of the few that is actually accessible during the Winter. Alternatively maybe a variation of this concept can be considered - such as designating a specific section of this upper lot for employees, and another for trail users including overnight campers, which could be marked with posted signs. It would not be an exceedingly difficult effort for the ski area to inform their employees not to use the 20 or 30, or however many parking spaces are to be left open for the public. I have actually thought about this before, but never thought the ski area would actually someday attempt to solely claim this lot as their own. I first started hiking and skiing in this area during February 2001, and during the past 11 and a half years working, recreating and/or living in Taos Ski Valley I've noticed what goes on and how certain entities conduct themselves. I would love to see some actions positive for the community prevail in this situation rather than the ski area plowing piles of snow in front of the National Forest signs, or placing their own signs in front of them or otherwise trying to generally reduce the visibility of these landmarks as has seemingly been done for many years, and for the ski area to accept that these lands are for everyone to enjoy equally, not just for their own company's gain but alongside our community. I believe there are ways that everyone can benefit together, if everyone is willing to work towards positive goals.

Thanks for taking the time to read my letter and consider my points.
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Re: TSV NOW WANTS EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE PUBLIC PARKING LOTS

Postby Marc » Wed Dec 11, 2019 3:52 pm

Perhaps there needs to be some leadership to have a discussion with the USFS? It may be that simple, it may not be, but it appears clear that this may be a real issue and if unchecked, could go a bit further. I definitely would want to be able to continue to use the parking access on public lands, and I would want all my clients to be able to have the same opportunity. There's definitely a group of public user groups who do not use the Ski Area. All good points, JBella.
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Re: TSV NOW WANTS EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE PUBLIC PARKING LOTS

Postby JBella » Wed Dec 11, 2019 4:01 pm

I hope you're right about that Marc, because someone who is a genuine leader regarding public land access in our area who works with the Enchanted Circle Trails Association has been paying attention to this issue and said he would be discussing it with the forest service. I've also been contacted by a few people who asked about the possibility of organizing a formal Backcountry Alliance similar to what other areas like Tahoe and the Wasatch mountains have. This is something to consider, because like you said there is an active presence of user groups who do not use the ski area, or who don't ski at the ski area as often as they use our Wilderness and other public lands.
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Re: TSV NOW WANTS EXCLUSIVE USE OF THE PUBLIC PARKING LOTS

Postby Bob » Thu Dec 12, 2019 12:20 pm

Thanks for this, JBella. I will be making my thoughts known to the FS.
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