Summer Fun At Ski Resorts?

Colorado senator introduces controversial bill that would allow summer recreation on national forests leased by ski resorts

At the end of ski season across the country, shredding ceases and the mountain forests formerly filled with loads of tourists go back to a relatively tranquil state, save for the odd front-side downhill mountain biker or dayhiker. Ski resorts often have to close, because they don't technically own the land where they operate lifts and groom runs—they lease it from the Forest Service. Vail famously has to close in late April, regardless of righteous late-season pow, to accommodate elk calving.

That could change: Congress is considering a bill proposed by Colorado senator Mark Udall that would allow ski resorts to pursue year-round activities on the land they lease. The bill would affect over 125 ski resorts nationwide, and would allow ski resorts to offer summer activities like mountain biking, alpine slides, zip-lines, and, one can only hope, zorbing.

Wilderness advocates are hacked about the bill, and they worry that this could signal a descent into carnival-like madness, with water parks, roller coasters, and other corny rides invading our forests.

"We would like recreation on national forest lands to be dependent on a natural setting and dependent upon an outdoor recreation experience," said Ryan Demmy Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild, an environmental group in Durango, Colo. "Urban-type recreation that could be provided in any context is not appropriate on public lands."

Udall, normally an environment-friendly Democrat, contends that this bill could lift embattled ski resorts out of the recession and provide jobs and much-needed cash for local economies.

"As our economy is still struggling, we need to make it clear that these year-round opportunities are welcome and available to help promote jobs, stimulate local economies and provide educational and recreational activities for families," Udall said in a statement released Monday.

Forest Service officials generally support the bill, but warn that the language remains too open-ended, and could allow for an harmful influx of "urban-based recreation."

Where do you stand, BACKPACKER-verse? Should we keep the woods quiet for a season, or continue our penchant for X-TREME Zorb sports even after the snow melts? Rip it in the comments section.

—Ted Alvarez

Bill would expand summer offerings at ski areas (

Image Credit: dougtone via Flickr