A proposed “mountain coaster” project at the Sandia Peak Ski Area in the Sandia Ranger District is in planning stages—and the U.S. Forest Service wants to hear from the public.

A public comment period is underway through March 20, although comments from the public will still be accepted after that, according to a press release from the Forest Service.

According to planning documents, the mountain coaster is projected to bring in as many as 100,000 visitors in the first year; the Tram brings in approximately 250,000 visitors annually and the expectation is the coaster would increase the amount of visitors to the tram by 10-15%, according to the Sandia Peak Ski Area’s website.

The Sandia Peak Ski Area had an average of approximately 20,000 winter visitors a year and approximately 5,800 summer guests annual pre-Covid, while the number of winter days that the Ski Area is closed has increased in recent years.

The proposed project area would be at the Sandia Peak Ski Area, near the Sandia Peak Tramway top terminal. This project proposal was developed to increase multi-seasonal recreational opportunities there.

The proposed mountain coaster would both begin and end near the top terminal of Sandia Peak’s Ski Area’s Chairlift 2 and the top terminal of the Sandia Peak Tramway.

The mountain coaster would be gravity-powered, with cars similar to bob sleds attached to tracks on the hillside. Guests would initially descend approximately 400 vertical feet over approximately 3,000 feet of track in a series of S-shaped turns.

The ride would end with an ascent back to the starting point on a cable rope-way powered return track measuring approximately 1,400 feet, according to the Forest Service.

The proposed mountain coaster would cross existing ski and mountain biking trails managed by Sandia Peak Ski Area. The existing Rob’s Run ski trail and portions of the existing Fred’s Run and Inhibition trails would be closed to avoid conflicts between users of the existing and proposed infrastructure, the press release says.

In addition, four or five switchbacks on the existing Golden Eagle mountain biking trail would be rerouted to accommodate the proposed mountain coaster.

No Forest Service managed trails would be crossed, closed, or rerouted for the proposed mountain coaster, the press release said.

A terminal building would be constructed at the top of the proposed mountain coaster that would be used for operations, storage and maintenance. In addition, a yurt-like structure would be constructed adjacent to terminal building to serve limited food and beverage options to guests riding the mountain coaster.

The mountain coaster, terminal building, and yurt-like structure would be designed to blend with the existing infrastructure at Sandia Peak, such as chairlift towers and terminals, lodges, and other ancillary structures, in accordance with the Forest Service Built Environment Image Guide.

Information about the mountain coaster project can be found at fs.usda.gov. An interactive viewer is also available at arcg.is/1mLXfi.

Comments will be accepted at any time. However, those posted after the close of a designated comment period may not be able to be given full consideration, according to the Forest Service. Comments received by March 30 will be most helpful during the scoping process.

Written comments may be submitted to Crystal Powell, District Ranger, Sandia Ranger District, Cibola National Forest, 11776 Hwy 337, Tijeras, NM, 87059, Attention: Bryan West

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Electronic comments, including attachments, can be submitted to cara.ecosystem-management.org/Public//CommentInput?Project=56985.

The Forest Service asks those commenting to include name, address, telephone number, and organization represented, if applicable. Comments should be clear, concise, and relevant to the analysis of the documents.

For more information, contact the project leader Bryan West at bryan.west@usda.gov or 303-275-5276.