Remembering nature while skiing

Steamboat Ski Area used Saturday to recognize environment's importance

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Yampatika tour guide Karen Proctor reached into her bag to pull out the reason why white settlers first came to Colorado.

She extracted a beaver skin and showed it to a group of skiers taking part in an environmental tour of Mount Werner. The tour was one of a number of activities offered for Sustainable Slopes Day, an event put on nationwide by members of the National Ski Areas Association to recognize their proactive measures in protecting the natural environment.

The event also recognizes the people who work to maintain the environmental habitat of ski resort mountains.

The Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. used the day to educate people by handing out fliers and talking to people about the Steamboat Ski Area's environmental challenges, such as bark-beetle suppression, fire prevention, water conservation and global warming.

People who used mass transit to get to the ski area Saturday were eligible for a drawing for a new snowboard and other prizes.

Proctor's ski tour led participants down Spur Run, where the group stopped in several places to learn about the ecosystem and history of the Yampa Valley, the Routt National Forest and Mount Werner.

Proctor first discussed Ski Corp.'s environmental protection efforts, such as maintaining recycling bins and researching snow-making methods that require less water and energy. She also led a discussion about wildlife on the mountain, including detailed information about identifying animal tracks in the snow.

The group was informed about how ski slope design has changed from building runs that go straight downhill to designing curved trails that help lessen erosion.

One topic the group discussed was human disturbance of pristine areas during skiing and snowmobiling.

"What we're trying to do is strike a balance between human and wildlife needs," Proctor said.

At the Thunderhead Lodge, Steamboat Ambassador Jim Ficke was manning a table covered with brochures about Sustainable Slopes Day.

"Some people have misconceptions about ski areas because they take pristine areas and change them into populated recreation areas," Ficke said. "But you're only taking a small percentage of more than a million acres, and thousands of people get to use it.

"After all, it is public land."

For more information about Sustainable Slopes Day, go to www.nsaa.org or www.keepwintercool.org.

-- To reach Nick Foster call 871-4204

or e-mail nfoster@steamboatpilot.com

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