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Ski slopes in national forests could host year-round activities

October 19, 2011 |  8:58 am

Vail
Finally, a bitterly divided Congress has found common ground -- on the slopes.

Congress has sent to President Obama legislation that would open up ski areas in national forests in California, Colorado and other states to year-round activities, such as concerts and mountain biking.

Sponsors of the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act describe it as an effort to boost tourism in mountain communities.

The measure passed the Senate on Tuesday night by unanimous consent after winning House approval earlier this month.

"In Colorado, we know that the last snowflake falling doesn't signal the end to our outdoor recreation,'' said Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), one of the bill’s chief sponsors. "This bill doesn't cost taxpayers a cent and, with just a small change, can create jobs in mountain communities across the country."

The measure applies to 121 ski areas on national forest land in California, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. Twenty-two of the ski areas are in California.

Some of the ski areas have already offered summertime activities, but the bill would provide clear authority to the U.S. Forest Service to permit a broader range of year-round activities, such as zip lines and Frisbee golf courses, while prohibiting more intensely developed activities, such as tennis courts and amusement parks.

"We are thrilled," said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Assn. “Year-round activities at ski areas will allow resorts to create more year-round jobs and boost the economies of the mountain communities in which we operate.”

“A small clarification to the law means that appropriate activities like snowboarding, zip lining and concerts can take place on public lands, enhancing our enjoyment of them and helping mountain communities sustain local jobs,'' Udall said in a statement.

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-- Richard Simon in Washington, D.C.

Photo: A snowboarder blasts through fresh powder in Vail, Colo. Credit: Jeff Cricco / Vail Associates

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