Nordic Center readies for future
DMR, Forest Service get together on trails plan

SideStory: Resort trails plan open to public comment

A skier winds his way through the trails at the Durnago Nordic Center last winter. Although the area is earmarked for development, Durango Mountain Resort is planning on preserving the trials and adding a few new ones in the future./Photo by Todd Newcomer.

by Will Sands

The future of Nordic skiing at Durango Mountain Resort is beginning to come into focus. Once again, the Durango Nordic Center is expected to open for the season at the end of this month. However, for the first time since its inception, Durango’s “other” ski area is guaranteed to open in that same location well into the future. Summer trail users, Buck’s Livery, the Adaptive Sports Association and others will also benefit from DMR’s recent effort to plan for recreation in an area earmarked for development.

Relative to other Nordic skiing areas in the state, the Durango Nordic Center has developed a reputation for being small but mighty. Challenging ups and downs make the area seem much longer than its actual 14 kilometers and have turned it into an appealing spot for racers in training, along with recreational skiers.

“We stack up well in terms of terrain, grooming and races,” Ineke Boyce, the Nordic Center’s director since 1984, has said. “But we don’t have much room in terms of expansion. We are one of the smaller areas, but we do have challenging terrain and exceptional scenery.”

The appeal of that exceptional scenery extends beyond skate and classic skiers. Though it is financially independent of DMR, the Nordic Center operates on acreage owned by the resort. And that acreage, located directly across U.S. Highway 550 from the DMR base area, is a vital component of the resort’s master development plan, which includes a total of 1,649 new housing units.

Two separate phases – Twilight Village and Boyce Lake Village – are proposed for the property that stair-steps down into the Lime Creek drainage. A mix of estate homesites, standard homesites and townhomes, along with a community park, are envisioned for the area that Nordic skiers now call home. In light of this future development, a number of alternatives have long been pitched for the Nordic Center’s future, and the favorite entails working the existing trail system into development plans.

“We’ve all known there’s going to be development where we currently have our trails,” Boyce said. “We’re currently exploring the options with DMR, and the trails will continue to run through the development. Exactly how or where, we’re still not sure.”

DMR and the Forest Service have spent recent months trying to answer that unknown. Together, they have formulated an amendment to DMR’s master plan that will address and enhance recreational trail use on the east side of the highway. One of the biggest components of that amendment involves the future of the Nordic Center. DMR has proposed safeguarding an existing 13.6 kilometers of trail and adding another 1.7 kilometers on the benches stepping down into the Lime Creek drainage.

“The Nordic Center is an integral part of this resort, and we’re looking to enhance the system as we move into the future,” said Matt Skinner, DMR spokesman. “We will incorporate as much of the existing trails into the development as we can. We have also proposed three new spurs for the trail system, and any trails affected by development will be offset.”

DMR and the Forest Service had hoped that the Nordic Center could have extended even farther into public lands. However, challenging terrain was a problem, according to Richard Speegle, Forest Service recreation project leader.

“DMR wants to continue to have a Nordic skiing operation up there and got together with us to see where we could add new loops,” he said. “There are 13.6 kilometers currently, and all we could really squeeze out was another 1.7 kilometers on Forest Service land.”

In addition to working to keep a viable Nordic system, DMR also has been working with Buck’s Livery. For the first time in 22 years, owner Ben Breed will not offer sleigh rides this winter because of condo construction. However, Breed and DMR have reached a compromise that Breed said will improve his operation when it begins again in the winter of 2006-07.

“I had trail on their private land for more than 20 years, and now that land is being developed,” Breed said. “But Durango Mountain Resort has bent over backwards and been really good to me. Plus, this new trail will be phenomenal.”

The new trail will extend from the old Purgatory Flats Trailhead, directly across from the resort entrance, to the edge overlooking Lime Creek. The trail will also be ADA accessible and used by the Adaptive Sports program during the summer.

“That area is just growing up, and things grow up,” said Breed. “I do truly believe that Durango Mountain Resort is doing it right.”

The area east of Highway 550 will not be growing up for some time, according to Skinner, meaning that it will be business as usual for the Durango Nordic Center, at least for a couple seasons.

“Any time frame for construction of the new trails will be after this spring, and development over there will be further down the road from that,” Skinner said. “We’re basically developing things according to supply and demand.”

Speegle agreed that the look and feel of the Nordic Center will be unchanged for the short term.

“Who knows?” he said. “The Nordic Center and that area might not be affected for years and years to come.” •



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