New law authorizes ropes courses, ziplines and mountain bike terrain parks
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A bill that was touted by Sen. Mark Udall as helping mountain resort economies won’t be having much impact this year, as very — if any — ski areas in Colorado are taking advantage of the new streamlined opportunity to install ziplines, rope courses, mountain bike terrain parks and trails and disk golf facilities.
After lobbying by the National Ski Areas Association, Udall pushed for passage of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, which spells out a list of non-skiing amenities that can be permitted on public land under lease to ski areas.
The bill was signed into law Nov. 7, 2011 by President Obama and U.S. Forest Service issued interim guidance in late December, but so far, not many resorts have proposed any improvements authorized by the measure, according to Loren Kroenke, the Utah-based head of the agency’s winter sports program.
Kroenke said the interim guidance is aimed at helping resorts and local Forest Service leaders address the review and approval process for site-specific projects.
“There have been just a handful of proposals around the country. If the ski industry had had a better winter, we probably would have seen more,” Kroenke said, adding that he’s heard through the grapevine that a slow winter season dampened the resorts’ enthusiasm for making summer-based capital improvements.
So far, there have been no specific proposals for such improvements at the big resorts in Summit County, according to winter sports ranger Joe Foreman. There’s been some general interest and discussion, but the time for putting forth such plans for this year is running short, he said.
For the long-term, the Forest Service will develop a more comprehensive policy based on the law that addresses other non-skiing amenities that aren’t specifically mentioned by the law. Right now, that policy is still at the rough draft stage, according to Kroenke, who said the agency may post a draft policy in the Federal Register at the end of the summer, triggering a public comment process.
The interim guidelines require local Forest Service officials to ensure that new facilities promote appreciation and enjoyment of the natural world and bans installation of facilities that are common in urban settings, for example tennis courts, pools and water slides.
According to the interim guidance, ski area permit boundaries should “not be expanded to allow the installation summer and four season facilities. When ski area permit boundary expansions are considered, they should be driven by snowsports considerations.”
Additional technical guidance is in the works for ziplines, ropes courses and canopy tour trails, and the guidance states clearly that any new summer facilities should be identified in master plans before the agency starts site-specific review.
Filed under: biking, Colorado, public lands, recreation, Ski Resorts, skiing and riding, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news, US Forest Service Tagged: | Mark Udall, Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, ski area summer recreation, ski industry, Ski Resorts, U.S. Forest Service