Vail Vail Resorts is in favor of a bill introduced by Sen. Mark Udall this week that could make way for more summer recreation activities at ski areas on U.S. Forest Service land.
The bill would revise a 23-year-old law that governs how the Forest Service issues permits for ski areas. The current law defines skiing and skiing-related recreation as allowed on Forest Service land. The update proposed by Udall would clarify that the Forest Service can authorize year-round recreational activities where appropriate.
"My bill would make it clear that activities like mountain biking, concerts and other appropriate uses can be allowed at these ski areas," Udall said in a statement.
The law - know as the Ski Area Permit Act - is due for an update, said Vail Resorts spokeswoman Kelly Ladyga. A lot of activities such as mountain biking, climbing walls, dining and summer scenic chairlift rides already are already taking place at ski areas, she said.
"The act as it currently stands does not encompass the range of recreational activities already taking place within the permitted boundaries of ski areas," Ladyga said. "This legislation more accurately reflects what is already taking place at mountain resorts."
During the past several years, Vail Resorts has proposed putting an "alpine coaster" on Vail Mountain and an "alpine slide" at Beaver Creek.
If the Ski Area Permit Act was updated, it would make it easier for Vail Resorts to have discussions with the Forest Service about having those types of activities on the mountain, Ladyga said.
Both the coaster and slide are gravity-powered rides, which would carry people down a track or slide. Vail Resorts is looking at different alternatives with the alpine slide proposed for Beaver Creek and has put the mountain coaster proposed for Vail on hold.
Opponents of the bill have said it could lead to things like water parks or roller coasters being built on Forest Service land.
No one is planning to put an amusement park at the top of the mountain, Ladyga said. The Forest Service still would have the authority to determine what's an appropriate use of the land.
Increasing the types of recreation offered at Vail Mountain or Beaver Creek also could bring more people to the Vail Valley in the summer - when business is much slower, Ladyga said.
"The more people we can attract outside of the winter months, the better," Ladyga said.
Improving Colorado's year-round recreation economy was part of what Udall had in mind when he proposed the bill.
"Ski areas are an important part of our recreational and tourist economy, not only in Colorado but throughout the nation," Udall said. "This bill, which applies to ski areas permitted on Forest Service land, continues to promote these values by making it clear that they are destinations for winter sports, as well as year-round opportunities."
Beth Slifer, a member of the Vail Local Marketing District, also favors the bill.
"I'm delighted that the bill is being introduced because we have assets that we have not been available to use for recreational activities in the summer," Slifer said. "I don't foresee we're talking about large physical development on the mountain. I think we're talking about using it for recreation that's just been limited in the past."
Vail and Beaver Creek mountains are almost entirely Forest Service land. Vail Resorts is issued special permits to operate the resorts on the public land.