Outdoors: Skier visits rebound nationally


U.S. resorts tallied 56.6 million skiers visits — and counting — in he 2012-2013 ski season.

All regions post increases from last year

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After a big dip last season, skier visits rebounded strongly in the 2012-2013 season, climbing up to 56. million with the season still going strong at areas like Mammoth Mountain and Arapahoe Basin.

For the country as a whole, skier visits climbed 11 percent from last season. Skier visits in the Pacific Southwest and Northeast regions climbed more than 20 percent from last winter, not surprising, since they were the areas hit hardest by sparse snowfall and an early meltdown last year.

Resorts in all regions started slow but skier visits gained momentum through the holidays and spring break. Overall, 78 percent of reporting ski areas posted increases in visits. The median resort experienced a 10.6 percent gain in visits, according to a release from the National Ski Areas Association. Continue reading

Ski industry offers some guarantees on water rights issue

Forest Service looking to ensure long-term viability of ski areas


With water a premium in the West, the Forest Service and ski resorts are discussing how they will administer water that originates on national forest lands. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — In comments submitted to the U.S. Forest Service, the National Ski Areas Association is suggesting a fresh start in developing a policy to determine ownership and future use of water that originates on national forest lands.

“Our new approach assumes that all previous water clauses are no longer in effect, null and void, and unenforceable. It would result in a consistent water policy across the board going forward,” said NSAA policy director Geraldine Link.

The ski industry comments came as the Forest Service held a series of hearings around the West in the early stages of developing a new water rights clause that eventually will become part of agency permits for businesses operating on public lands.

The ski industry and the Forest Service have been at odds over water rights for years, and most recently faced each other in federal court over a 2011 version of the permit language. The court said that the Forest Service failed to follow required procedures in rewriting the clause, and also noted that the agency has adopted a series of clauses that aren’t being applied consistently. Continue reading

Forest Service to address the tangled status of ski area water rights with a public process

Federal court ruling sends agency back to the drawing board


The U.S. Forest Service will hold a public process to develop a new agency guideline for adminstering water rights at ski areas operating on public lands. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — After being rebuffed in federal court, the U.S. Forest Service will start anew at developing new water-rights language for ski area permits. The agency plans to start taking public input this spring on the new directive, which would clarify ownership of water rights on national forest lands.

The Forest Service most recently issued a new water rights directive in Dec. 2012, aiming to establish that certain water rights have to remain linked with the ski areas where the water is used to ensure the long-term sustainability of the resorts.

The ski industry interpreted at least parts of the new directive as a direct grab of water rights that are properly administered under state water law. A year-long lawsuit ended in Dec. 2012 with a court telling the Forest Service it must use a public process to develop a new directive.

“The agency’s announcement and the agency’s recent policy that was struck down in federal court both assume that water should run with the land. This approach reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of water law in the West,” said Geraldine Link,  public policy director for the National Ski Areas Association.

Continue reading

Colorado: West Slope water users take sides with National Ski Areas Associaton in legal battle over water rights

Amicus brief reinforces NSAA  complaint against federal agency

A lawsuit over water rights could affect many ski areas in Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —The ski industry has some new allies in its legal challenge to a new Forest Service ski area permit requirement affecting water rights.

The Colorado River Water Conservation District, the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District, the Ute Water Conservancy District, the Eagle Park Reservoir Company and the Clinton Ditch and Reservoir Company have joined in the lawsuit with an amicus brief that was accepted by the U.S. District Court of Colorado a few days ago, according the Colorado River District attorney Peter Fleming.

The Amicus Brief doesn’t raise new issues, but reinforces the legal points already made by the National Ski Areas Association in its original and amended complaints and serves to make the court aware that the disposition of the case will stakeholders other than the ski industry, Fleming said. Continue reading

Forest Service responds to ski industry water-rights lawsuit

Ski areas claim takings; agency says it’s protecting a public resource

Ski areas and the Forest Service continue their legal tussle over water rights.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The U.S. Forest Service has responded to the ski industry’s lawsuit over water rights, claiming it has every legal right to attach certain requirements to ski area permits ensuring that the water originating in streams on public lands remain dedicated to continued ski area obligations.

In the response, the Forest Service said:

“The 2012 ski area water rights clause speaks for itself and is the best evidence of its contents. Defendants deny any allegations contrary to the plain language and meaning of the 2012 ski area water rights clause. Defendants deny any violation of the Constitution, federal law or regulation.”

Read the entire Forest Service response on the Summit Voice Scribd.com feed.

The latest skirmish in the long-running water war started late last year when the agency inserted a new water rights clause into standard ski area permits. The clause replaced language developed in 2004 that gave ski areas more absolute control over the water. According to the Forest Service, the 2004 language could have enabled resorts to sell off some of their water rights. More background here. Continue reading

Ski industry sharpens legal claims over water rights

The ski industry and U.S. Forest Service are locked in a battle over water rights.

New claim in lawsuit alleges the Forest Service didn’t consider impacts to small businesses from new permit conditions

By Bob Berwyn

VAIL — The ski industry last week honed its attack on a new Forest Service permit condition that affects water rights, claiming the agency failed to consider the economic impact on small businesses, as required under the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Act.

At issue is language in the permits under which most Colorado ski areas operate on public land. The two sides have been engaged in a long-running tussle over who owns the water originating on national forest lands.

By amending its original lawsuit against the Forest Service in Federal District Court, the ski industry also gives the Forest Service an extra month to respond to the legal challenge. The industry also claims the new permit condition is an unlawful “takings ,”and that it conflicts with state water law. Continue reading

Ski industry sues Forest Service over water rights

A water-rights showdown between the U.S. Forest Service and the ski industry is looming in federal district court.

NSAA claims illegal takings; agency says it wants to ensure long-term viability of ski area operations

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — The veneer of partnership between the U.S. Forest Service and the ski industry cracked this week under the weight of a serious disagreement over water rights.

The National Ski Areas Association Monday filed a lawsuit try and block the agency from changing permit language relating to the ownership of water rights associated with the development and operation of ski areas under federal permit.

At stake are millions of dollars worth of water rights that originate on national forest system lands. A dispute over the ownership of those water rights has been simmering since the 1980s, when the Forest Service developed permit language requiring resorts to assign ownership of certain water rights to the federal government. Continue reading


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