Speak Out -- Mountains of Opportunity

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January 2012


Summer opportunities.
The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act, signed by President Obama on Nov. 7, 2011, paves the way for more robust summer operations at the 121 ski areas that operate on public lands under the jurisdiction of the U. S. Forest Service. The measure will allow ski resorts in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming to offer their guests a wider array of activities in summer, including ziplines, mountain biking, ropes courses and more.

Simply put, this is the most important piece of legislation for public land resorts since the overhaul of the USFS fee system in 1996. The passage of the bill opens up a new frontier, giving resorts on public lands more flexibility to be year-round providers of developed recreation.

Through the cooperation of many, and years in the making, the bill clarifies and gives guidance to USFS staff in the field to let them know what they should and should not entertain. Proposals for a whole suite of summer activities can now be presented to the Forest Service without the question mark of whether there is adequate authority at a local level to approve them. Additionally, this will make agency consideration of summer activities, from the Master Development Plan process to project approvals, smoother and more predictable.

At Mammoth, we have long sought to offer a wide range of activities within our permitted areas to enhance the experience of summer visitors. We do, after all, serve as a major portal for the public to experience and recreate in the National Forests. Attractions like ziplines, bike parks, and mountain coasters can create a buzz in summer and greatly enhance a visitor's experience to the mountains-especially for youth. These unique, sometimes adrenaline-fueled experiences in the outdoors build affinity for the mountains and mountain vacations. At Mammoth, we are committed to developing summer experiences for our guests with the same environmental and safety ethic that is the hallmark of our winter operations.

To our small community in Mammoth Lakes, the passage of the bill means job creation. A more diverse and year round product offering could yield hundreds of jobs in the region, providing more opportunity for our local employee base and more economic stability to our fragile rural economy.

The ski industry owes its appreciation to Rob Katz, CEO and chairman of the board of directors for Vail Resorts, and Beth Ganz, director of public affairs for Vail Resorts, who joined me in providing critical testimony to Congressional committees on this legislation. And we owe a debt of gratitude to Geraldine Link, director of public policy for NSAA, who worked tirelessly to push expanded summer use of ski resorts from an old concept to a new reality.
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