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Lutsen expansion gets longer comment period

A second virtual open house has also been scheduled.

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Skiers head down the slopes at Lutsen Mountains. A proposed expansion of the ski resort, mostly onto Superior National Forest land in the distance of this photo, is open for public comment through Dec. 9. Contributed / Lutsen Mountains

The U.S. Forest Service is extending the public comment period for an additional 45 days on the environmental review of the proposed Lutsen Mountains Ski Area expansion on Minnesota’s North Shore of Lake Superior.

Comments will now be accepted through Dec. 9. Forest Service officials have scheduled a second virtual open house on the project for Nov. 16.

After Dec. 9, the Forest Service will revise the draft statement into a final environmental impact statement, choosing one of several alternatives for the project, including no expansion, or picking aspects from multiple alternatives.

Lutsen’s preferred plan includes a special use permit from the federal agency that would double the resort’s on-snow capacity onto 495 acres of Superior National Forest land, which the company would lease.

Forest Service officials are weighing the economic and social benefits of the project against potential environmental issues, such as impacts on streams, wildlife, wetlands and forest aesthetics as well as impacts on other uses of the area, such as hiking. A final decision could come later this winter.

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Several objections have already been raised on the proposal, including by the Superior Highlands Backcountry ski group, which wants to keep Moose Mountain undeveloped for hike-in downhill skiing. Supporters of the Superior Hiking Trail Association have objected to a proposed realignment of the trail through the ski hill expansion area.

PREVIOUSLY:

  • Backcountry downhill skiing in Minnesota? You betcha New group promoting backcountry skiing in hilliest part of Arrowhead region.
  • Forest Service to study impact of proposed Lutsen Mountains expansion The environmental review would take many months.

If final approval is granted, Lutsen Mountains Corp. would expand onto federal land, including a 36-acre area on the south side of Eagle Mountain and a 459-acre portion on the southwest side of Moose Mountain. The proposed expansion, in the works for nearly a decade, calls for the resort’s capacity to increase from 2,850 guests per day to 6,300 per day, with a new, on-mountain chalet on Moose Mountain; two new access areas at the base of the hills; 175 acres of traditional, open ski-snowboard terrain; and 149 acres of gladed terrain, with more trees left in place.
The company’s proposal includes seven new chair lifts and one surface lift, additional access roads to the new facilities and some rerouting of the Superior Hiking Trail/North Country National Scenic Trail. The two new base areas would add another 1,200 parking spaces serving two new 10,000-square-foot buildings providing a variety of guest services, including food services and seating, ski school space, rental/repair options and more.

Company officials have said the expansion would be developed over a decade and could cost nearly $60 million.

The existing Lutsen Mountains complex of four hills, multiple lifts and 95 runs — along with ski shops, chalets, taverns, restaurants, condos and hotels — now sprawls across 1,000 acres. The expansion would increase the skiable area from 180 to 320 acres, the company notes, and include an expanded base area, additional skier services and more parking on both Eagle Mountain and Moose Mountain.

For details on the project, go to fs.usda.gov/project/?project=52440 .

Written comments should be sent to: Michael Jimenez, Project Leader: Lutsen DEIS Project, Superior National Forest, 8901 Grand Avenue Place, Duluth, MN 55808.

Emailed comments should go to comments-eastern-superior@usda.gov . Include “Lutsen Mountains Ski Area Expansion Project” in the subject line.

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For more information, contact michael.jimenez@usda.gov .

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