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U.S, Forest Service Nixed Lutsen Mountains Expansion Plans

Lutsen-Mountains-mid-Americas-only-gondola Lutsen Mountain's gondola, which is the only gondola operating mid-America.

Late last month the U.S. Forest Service rejected the expansion plans for Lutsen Mountains, which were announced in 2014, to expand onto 495 acres of Superior National Forest so it could add more runs, lifts and other facilities, which would have nearly doubled its skiable terrain, according to a recent article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

The article cited reasons that included potential environmental effects and treaty concerns that were raised by Native American tribes that live in the area. An 1854 treaty with the tribes gave them hunting, fishing and other rights for the land. Tribal leaders commended the Forest Service's decision.

“Lutsen Mountains is planning to revise its proposal and come back with a new plan that will account for the tribal and Forest Service concerns,” said Jim Vick, Lutsen's spokesperson and GM, in the article.

The permitting process, which started two years ago, must still go through an objection period, according to the Forest Service. But a change to the decision typically doesn't occur without substantial new information being brought forward they pointed out. A final decision is to be made in 90 days, which includes 45 days to submit objections and another 45 days for Superior National Forest to try and resolve them.

“Lutsen Mountains respects the Forest Service decision process,” said Charlotte Skinner, chief of staff for Midwest Ski Resorts, which owns the ski area, in a statement. “We are committed to being an active and constructive member of our community, and will work collaboratively with sovereign tribal nations, local elected leaders and others to improve our area.”

The decision doesn't “impact the resorts existing operations or ongoing improvements on Lutsen Mountains private land,” the release added.

The new terrain was expected to provide more novice and intermediate runs, reduce crowding on busy runs during weekends and holidays, and include new skier service buildings and more parking. Over the last few years Lutsen has had several days on busy winter weekends where they have sold out lift ticket sales. The ski area, which covers 1,000 acres, offers 95 runs, the longest two miles, that fall off four mountain tops. The ancient Sawtooth Mountain chain rises over 1,000 feet above Lake Superior, which is often in sight on many of the runs.

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