Letter to the Editor: Taos Ski Valley’s Plan for Kachina Basin Adds to New Mexico’s Water Worries

Editor’s Note: As reported in La Jicarita two weeks ago, the Kachina Base Area Master Plan was presented in a zoom meeting by the Taos Ski Valley and Design Workshop, the contractor that’s been working on the development plan in the Kachina Basin. A “scaled down” version, negotiated with the existing landowners in the basin, includes hundreds of commercial and residential structures, roads, parking areas, trails, a gondola, and more on the 57 privately held acres. The public was initially given one week to comment, but after numerous appeals for more time, the deadline was extended another week, which expired this weekend. But this is only the beginning, not the end, of opposition raised, especially by downstream communities that weren’t consulted in the planning, to even this “scaled down” development. The following letter to the editor was also submitted to the My Turn column in the Taos News.


It is truly disturbing to see what Taos Ski Valley and Design Workshop are planning to do to the Kachina Basin. It was only a few years ago that CEO David Norden told a group that he envisioned the Kachina area being similar to a national park, undisturbed and left in a natural state. Well, that didn’t last long, did it? 

As a season pass holder at TSV, a summer hiker in the mountains and a volunteer for the Forest Service working to keep the trails open for hikers, I have watched first hand the constant development over the last 5 years. I believe we are watching first hand how an unbridled ego is going about building his empire. Perhaps it is time for Mr. Bacon to stop and realize what he is doing to the environment and its resources before it is too late. Forbes magazine states that Mr. Bacon is an environmentalist. I do not see this as the work of an environmentalist and neither will others, as trees are felled and countless trucks make their way up the small dirt road to Kachina basin spewing diesel from their tail pipes and drowning out the sounds of nature. While TSV may present itself as a “B” corporation, destroying the environment in an area lacking an adequate water supply is not my idea of a “B” corporation’s behavior. How many more years will TSV be given the green light for its endless construction?

Of greater concern is the impact to the lands that surround the TSV, the Carson National Forest, its wildlife and watershed, which is a designated wilderness area. This area is already being impacted by TSV’s development. I can only imagine what it will be like when and if this master plan is implemented.

At present, too much water is being consumed on a daily basis, with no end in sight. Now TSV is proposing even more being drawn off. Our winters are become shorter and the snow pack is diminishing. We need to be aware that there is an entire community living below the ski valley that also needs this water, not to mention the forest itself. The state of New Mexico is in a drought situation and has been for years. Is it wise to put over 100 buildings in this pristine area? The building of second homes should not be a priority.

While a frontside to backside gondola might seem like a great idea, I would like to know what effects it would have on the environment? How many trees would be cut down and what would its effect be on the wildlife living in the area. While many might take the gondola, Americans are in love with their cars and would drive up anyway, filling the parking lot.

I would like to know if an environmental impact assessment has been done pertaining to the gondola? At present, you can take two lifts up in order to ski down to the Kachina Basin, hardly an inconvenience. I feel that this gondola will be another unneeded addition to TSV.

During the construction stage, trucks will be making thousands of trips up and down the road to the Kachina development. These heavy weight cement and building supply delivery trucks will put an added burden on a road, which at best, was designed for light weight vehicles.

Have you travelled this road in the winter? All of this development traffic will present a major safety hazard. After snow, ice and rain events, this road becomes a muddy potholed mess. Neither the town nor TSV have successfully addressed this issue. The challenges to this access road will only be compounded if this new development is completed.

The Design Workshop’s presentation stated: “The goal is to highlight nature based recreation, alpine beauty and a preserved and restored natural landscape.” I fail to see how destroying a watershed and putting up 100 plus buildings in this area will preserve it. As for restoring the landscape if it was left in its present state, there would be nothing to restore in the first place.

The land may belong to TSV, but the water in the Carson National forest does not. It belongs to all citizens. It should remain free to flow into the rivers below the ski area so that everyone’s need for water can be met, including the forest.

Tom Mavilia is a retired teacher, backcountry skier, hiker and a volunteer on the Carson National Forest doing trail work.

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