Measure aims to clarify Forest Service permitting authority for non-traditional on-mountain recreation activities and facilities
By Bob Berwyn
SUMMIT COUNTY — A measure that could help Colorado ski areas win approval for new on-mountain activities passed the House this week under a streamlined voting procedure used to pass noncontroversial bills that have bipartisan support.
The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 (H.R.765) amends the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 to clarify what additional uses can be authorized by the U.S. Forest Service. Agency chief Tom Tidwell testified earlier this summer that the Forest Service is already starting to write a set of rules to implement the law if and when it passes. Read more here …
As resort-based recreation evolves, more ski areas have proposed activities that aren’t clearly covered by current Forest Service rules, including mountain roller coasters, zip lines and ropes courses. Some Forest Service rangers who administer ski area permits have asked for additional clarity on the rules.
Copper Mountain Resort recently finalized a new master plan that includes zip lines and ropes courses. The new measure could help the resort win Forest Service approval for those activities.
The bill was originally introduced in the Senate by Mark Udall a few years ago. Click here to read Udall’s blog post about the bill.
“My bill would help the mountain communities create jobs and boost their economies while creating more recreational opportunities for Coloradans to visit the mountains,” Udall said. “It’s time for the Senate to follow the House’s lead and pass my bill on the floor.”
The measure specifically mentions mountain bike terrain parks and trails, frisbee golf courses and ropes courses.
It specifically excludes tennis courts, water slides and water parks, swimming pools, golf courses and amusement parks.
Even though there seems to be no shortage of summer events and activities at Colorado ski areas, the industry has been lobbying heavily to get the bill passed, claiming that Forest Service rules are too restrictive. This time around, the law has been dressed up as an economic development measure that would boost employment and economic activity in the shoulder seasons.
Conservation groups also have expressed concern that the measure could spur development of attractions that aren’t related to the natural resource-based mission of the Forest Service, including water parks, mini-golf and concert amphitheaters that would result in yet more disturbance to national forest lands and compete with local businesses.