Passage of ski bill could expedite building of mountain attractions

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U.S. Sen. Mark Udall

— Lawmakers are considering a bill that makes it clear that ski resorts are not just for the winter vacationer.

The National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 allows only ski-related activities on U.S. Forest Service land leased to resorts like Steamboat Ski Area. Any other uses — such as the building of downhill mountain biking trails, zip lines or disc golf courses — has required a tedious permitting process. Forest Service officials have been asking for clarity on the 1986 legislation, which doesn’t address even common uses like snowboarding.

The Ski Area Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last week and more easily would allow year-round attractions on Forest Service land.

“This bill will bolster mountain economies by enabling the Forest Service to permit more use during the offseasons,” Colorado U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, one of the bill’s sponsors, said in a news release.

The bill’s co-sponsors are Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso and U.S. Reps. Rob Bishop of Utah and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

Tara Trujillo, Udall’s communications director, said Udall will push to have the bill voted on by the Senate next week.

“It’s time for the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass my bill on the floor,” Udall said in a news release.

“We have been monitoring it closely and hope that it moves forward,” said Jim Schneider, Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s vice president of skier services.

Schneider said Tuesday that Steamboat Ski Area was not going to wait for an update to the Ski Area Permit Act to build new downhill mountain biking trails, which are under construction.

“That’s the one thing we did choose to do and not wait for this bill,” Schneider said.

If the bill passes, Schneider said the ski area would be able to move forward with a new disc golf course, ideally at the top of the gondola.

Schneider said there are a variety of other summer activities that could be added to complement the existing bungee and bull-riding attractions currently in Gondola Square during the summer.

The Forest Service already is in the process of changing its policies in preparation for the passage of the bill that would allow the permitted ski area land to be used for “skiing and other snow sports and recreational uses.” The bill specifically allows zip lines, mountain bike terrain parks and trails, disc golf courses and ropes courses.

The bill also specifically prohibits the building of tennis courts, water slides and water parks, swimming pools, golf courses and amusement parks.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247 or email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com

Comments

Beavers 2 years, 6 months ago

The forest service is not supposed to be in the business of commercializing or subsidizing privately held ski areas on land which is leased from all of us for the wealth and profitability of a few.

I think the LESS commercial development on OUR Forest Service land, the better.

If you want Walt Disney, please go to LA or Orlando. Steamboat won't make a dime on those kinds of clients anyways.

Once this bill is passed, you can bet in 3 years, vendors/lessors are going to be complaining/filing about the size of their neon signs, that they have to be visible from Rabbit Ears to the Sleeping Giant.

Disc golf? Disc Golf can be stuck in some pasture by the highway, just like the real golf courses are where some entrepreneurial ranchette owner can make a buck (and pay the town and state taxes). The luncheon "horse pack trips" and trail rides were a financial failure. And as far as we mountain bikers and others that used the mountain in the "off season" were concerned, an odiferous problem as well. Remember all that urine drenched hay at the top of the gondy on a hot day in July?

It seems to me if the entities who run the ski business want to become more profitable, they ought to go invest in Wall Street- and keep the garbage, detritus and flotsam down in the bowels of some city and out of OUR national forests. Ski areas were started by and invest in by people who loved skiing, not making a big profit. Because the new corporate breed of ski area developers are presently failing to bring in the profits they desire on the permits they already have, they have to expand? Shoot, they can't make the original business profitable, so we're gonna let them expand? Doesn't make sense.

I like Mark Udall, but feel he is pandering to the dollar interests on this one. He is failing to stand up for the environment and to safeguard the interests of all rather than to aid those of a few.

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mtroach 2 years, 6 months ago

Beaver, we need this to concentrate the development on ski areas rather than scattered through the forest. Here in steamboat the lack of challenging mountain bike trails led rouge trail builders to build illegal trails off Buff pass. If the trail building process on the ski mountain was faster then this illegal activity could have been prevented.

This is less about profits for ski areas and more about removing red tape to allow ski areas give people what they want from their forest.

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Kerrie Cooper 2 years, 6 months ago

I can't deny I love the idea of mountain bike trails on Mt Werner as well, but I have a feeling this bill isn't for the good of the people or even the ski resort, but a step forward to open the public lands (Forest Service, Nat'l Parks, etc) for natural gas & oil drilling. If I knew the actual intent was for simple things as trails, I'd agree but something tells me, there's a much more un-eco reason behind this bill and Beavers did make a statement that was true

"The forest service is not supposed to be in the business of commercializing or subsidizing privately held ski areas on land which is leased from all of us for the wealth and profitability of a few." Brutal, but truth is truth!

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Kerrie Cooper 2 years, 6 months ago

correction: I know there is existing mtn bike trails on Werner (cause I ride them) but I mean an easier permitting process to maintain them

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sledneck 2 years, 6 months ago

Yipeee for the ski areas. Meanwhile sonwmobilers can't even get a lousy parking spot on Rabbit Ears half the time.

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Beavers 2 years, 6 months ago

Hi mtroach: if you think about what you're saying, you're pov is just for mountain bikers. It's not inclusive of the general public who are in fact the owners of the national forest, national and state parks and the BLM. If Mtn Bikers are building trails up Buff Pass, then somebody ought to hunt them down and arrest them because that's illegal and it's abusive to our resource. Hunting guides, horse packers, hikers, paddlers, Powder Cats, shoot, even many mountain bikers ought to get involved and try to derail these selfish few. That's our forest and most of us don't want trails everywhere. Dingo trails, atv trails, walking trails, paved trails, 4 wheel trails, hunting trails, happy trails either. Hey, I love mountain biking and I have a home town bike and I used to ride the ski area every day. Earned my turns. I understand my thinking means I am not gonna get to play disc golf at elevation or mountain bike wherever in the woods I want. Maybe I won't be able to buy a hot dog or throw some horse shoes or do a sing along with Wyatt and the Elk up on Mt Werner. But that's cool- because the forest is exactly that- a preserved for all time national forest. I'd rather restrict the use of our national forests to remain as wilderness than give any more than we already have away to anybody with personal/profitable/self-centered interests. Every give-away like this one eventually devolves to a little more here, a little more there. Throw in the catalyst of profit and it accelerates the whole process.

We little guys aren't pushing to get our policy pushed through the senate. The Koch Brothers, Interwest and ATT are.

This is why I am a little perturbed with Mark Udall's stance on this. He was elected by the little guys to protect their general interests. Water, native american, migrant labor, open spaces, wildlands, natural resources... I worry if, like a horse heading home, he's not pandering to the $, the "special interests"?

I know business owners are gonna start jumping up and down, but ask them to look back at why they came to the boat in the first place. If it had been Orlando in the Rockies, you think they wouldn't have u-turned on Yampa St and headed to Aspen or Telluride? If they'd come to make money in the first place, they wouldn't have dropped in off Rabbit Ears. Maybe they'd head back to Hollywood? After, of course, taking a few runs down one of the groomers. Sorry for the long post...

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arshouse 2 years, 6 months ago

beavers, you act as if the national forest land that is used by the ski area has not already been severely compromised by the ski trails, lifts, on mountain amenities, weather stations, etc. please correct me if i am wrong, but this bill only allows for additional recreational development within the ski area boundaries. i agree with mtroach that at least this will encourage the development to occur within the areas that have already been developed, thus discouraging development in other areas of the national forest (which should be kept in their natural state as much as possible). of course people want to make money, and that is a big part of why this bill was passed, but your fears of orlando in the rockies are far fetched. like it or not, we are a destination resort, and people (locals included) want to have more recreational opportunities. personally, i would love to see an on mountain disc golf course, as a course located in some pasture is not a viable alternative (we miss the thunderhead course!). more diverse mountain bike trails would also be welcome.

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kathy foos 2 years, 6 months ago

lovestoread,I suspect you are right about this paving the way for gas and oil in disguise.Thankfully,the EPA has now stepped up protections in the drilling processes and they may not be so intrusive.Its not the visual impact of the wells that should be considered(though they are butt ugly)its the impact to water,air people and wildlife.Tourist would (should)hate the sight of them,gas and oil production facilitys and wells?You cant have your cake(tourism) and eat it(oil and gas production) too.The Federal government wants money off the oil any way they can gleen it.

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kathy foos 2 years, 6 months ago

Beavers is right.Keep it a wilderness area,that means undeveloped,ever.That is why many people live here,its free,leave the wilderness area alone please.Thankyou.

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sedgemo 2 years, 6 months ago

Nothing on Mt. Werner is a designated Wilderness, folks. It is a National Forest owned by all of us, with a portion leased to the ski resort for that specific purpose. What's at stake here is the permitting of other activities in other seasons. The Forest Service itself can't build Disneyland there, but could help it happen via favorable conditions etc. IF such a use were permitted AND someone wanted to do it.

Our National Forests are legally different than designated Wilderness areas, and have always been managed for USING the resources (mining, logging, grazing, recreation etc.) The challenge is balancing HOW to use them, not IF. They are not preserves.

Let's keep our terminology accurate so we can all understand the questions before us.

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sledneck 2 years, 6 months ago

Take out the word "Ski areas" from mt. roach's comment and insert the word "Banks" instead and roach would likely be on the EXACT OPPOSITE side of the issue.

Beaver's idea (as well as Sun's) of National Forest land use is quaint but wrong. National Forests are supposed to be "Land of Many Uses", NOT WILDERNESS, which is another distinct designation altogether. Within the National Forests there is supposed to be a myriad of ongoing activity including but NOT LIMITED TO: skiing, logging, communication siting, hunting, snowmobiling, camping, fishing, water storage, etc, etc. There is plenty of room for commerce and there is plenty of room for PARKING. It is obvious from Beaver's and Sun's statements that, like so many on the extreme green side, they have no understanding whatsoever of the difference between National Forest and Wilderness or worse, they wish to cloud the distinction.

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exduffer 2 years, 6 months ago

"The National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986.." "The Ski Area Recreation Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011.." Kind of says it all, doesn't it beavers?

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