Udall ski-area alternative activity bill clears committee vote

Sen. Mark Udall’s bill to promote year-round recreation at ski areas cleared a critical committee vote late last week and is headed to a vote of the full U.S. Senate.

First introduced in 2008 and then revived last summer, the bill is not without controversy. It seeks to revamp a 1986 law governing ski-area permits on U.S. Forest Service so that the federal agency has more latitude to allow recreation other than skiing.

“Ski areas are a critical part of our state’s recreational and tourist economy – but many struggle to provide jobs during the summer months,” Udall said in a release after the bill was approved by the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“My bill would help provide some stability by making it clear that biking, concerts, and other recreational activities are welcome where the Forest Service finds them appropriate. I’m very pleased we were able to get committee approval, and I urge my colleagues in the full Senate to approve it quickly.”

When Udall first introduced the bill in 2008, Ryan Bidwell, executive director of the ski-area watchdog group Colorado Wild, joined 15 other environmental groups to oppose inappropriate uses: “Basically urbanized activities like roller coasters, water parks, concert amphitheaters, mini-golf — facilities that don’t depend on a natural setting at all, that aren’t dependent on the resources that national forest lands offer.”

Udall contends it will be up to the Forest Service to determine what those appropriate uses are. Many ski areas already allow biking, concerts and other activities, but some mountain homeowners are concerned the new law would allow amusement-park-style rides and other urbanized activities.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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