EDITOR’S NOTE: In the U.S. many ski resorts are located on
U.S. Forest Service lands, which limits the development of accommodations,
villages, and other amenities and recreational opportunities that most resorts
in Canada take for granted. For example, the nearest accommodations to Mt.
Baker Ski Resort on the other side of the B.C. border are about 17 miles from
the ski area, while summer activities are limited to hiking and camping.
The closest analogue in Canada is Banff National Park, which
houses Sunshine Village, Lake Louise and Ski Banff Norquay, where many
activities are not permitted such as downhill mountain biking, and resort
managers are constantly asking Parks Canada for more leeway to offer the same
activities and amenities as resorts elsewhere in B.C. and Alberta.
Whistler remains the model for a four-season resort in
Canada, allowing a wide range of activities during the winter months including
motorized activities in designated areas, as well as a wide range of activities
in the summer.
If U.S. ski area operators operating in the U.S. Forest
Service have their way, they’ll be able to offer the same types of activities
Where do you draw the line on developed recreation? The U.S.
Forest Service has been asking that question since at least 1919, when a young
landscape architect named Arthur Carhart was dispatched to northwestern
Colorado to design a road around a remote lake.
Why not leave the land alone? Carhart asked. His Forest
Service bosses agreed, and Trappers Lake is sometimes called the cradle of
Now that question is being asked again, this time as the
result of a proposal from the ski industry going before Congress. Legislation
being readied by U.S. Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat from Colorado, would broaden
the allowed uses of national forests by ski area operators.
“My bill would make it clear that activities like mountain
biking, concerts and other appropriate uses can be allowed at these ski areas,”
said Udall in a press release.
Environmental groups, however, say Udall’s proposal is too
broad. The bill, says Ryan Demmy Bidwell, executive director of Colorado Wild,
a ski industry watchdog, “leaves the door open to urbanized recreation
activities like roller coasters and water parks that are inappropriate anywhere
on national forest land."
The Forest Service has long struggled with defining what is
appropriate. Carhart himself wanted the Forest Service to enable the general
public to enjoy national forests by building campgrounds and roads. The agency
did, and after World War II, picked up the pace. A major partner — the
largest single source of visitors to national forests — have been the
downhill ski areas.