Ski industry’s holiday wish list for Obama, new Congress

Somewhere way down Barack Obama’s list — likely trailing ending the war in Iraq, resuscitating the DOA economy, reforming ealth care and achieving energy independence — is the agenda of the nation’s ski industry.

So vital to Colorado’s coffers (and identity as a state), the sport hardly registers on the national radar, especially in these times of war and financial free fall. But that didn’t keep the state’s major ski-industry players from weighing in last week with their own wish list for Obama once he’s inaugurated Jan. 20.

Veteran Denver Post ski-business writer Jason Blevins made the list in a Nov. 22 story and checked it twice with the industry policymakers. Most agreed that stimulating the economy so that skiers nationwide can continue to come to Colorado and feed the $4-billion-a-year state ski machine was a top priority.

“Obviously this administration has a lot on its plate,” said Melanie Mills, president of the industry lobbying group Colorado Ski Country USA. “We don’t want recreation to be left behind.”

Combating global climate change is another key concern for Colorado ski execs, who rely heavily on frosty temps and lots of snow. According to the Post, 70 ski areas nationwide are lobbying Congress for mandatory carbon-dioxide caps to limit greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global climate change.
The green rhetoric has ratcheted up in recent years, with ski areas like Vail and Steamboat playing catch-up with the environmentally aggressive Aspen Skiing Co.

That’s an agenda most skiers can relate to and sign on for, but a less-popular push for immigration reform and more H-2B foreign worker visas — used extensively throughout the industry to staff low-paying jobs with seasonal workers from overseas — is drawing fire in some circles.

Comments on Blevins’ story in the post ran the gamut from calling ski industry execs greedy, elitist real estate developers to some xenophobic rants about hiring more local labor in a down economy.

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