Do ads commercialize public lands? |

Do ads commercialize public lands?

summit daily news

SUMMIT COUNTY ” An interim Forest Service policy on outdoor advertising at ski areas had its first test recently at Keystone, as rangers with the Dillon District decided that the ski resort could use small stickers on its ski bikes for commercial product advertising.

The new policy gives the agency and the resorts that operate under permits on national forest lands more leeway when it comes to posting so-called sponsorship messages in areas that have traditionally been ad-free, including outdoor electronic trail maps.

Such maps might be one of the places skiers could soon see more commercial messages, said Ken Kowynia, winter sports program leader for the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain region.

As the Forest Service worked revising the ad policy, some rangers warned that opening the door to outdoor ads would lead to a flood of hard-to-control advertising schemes. Other critics, like Sloan Shoemaker, of the Aspen-based Wilderness Workshop, have said the new ad policy represents the incremental commercialization of public lands.

“It gives a little more opportunity for the A-Basin’s of the world to use sponsorship opportunities,” Kowynia said.

Smaller areas like A-Basin operating completely on national forest lands have missed out on advertising revenue available to resorts that own private land at their base areas.

A-Basin, for example, had a sponsorship deal with Toyota last season that stretched the boundaries of the previous version of the Forest Service ad policy, according to Foreman.

“It’s probably a little more legitimate under the new policy,” Kowynia said.

“Essentially, the only major change is that it allows the lap maps,” Kowynia said, referring to advertising associated with trail maps attached to chairlift safety bars.

The interim policy, subject to public comment through March 27, defines those chairlift safety bars as an “interior space,” that falls into the area deemed suitable for ads.

The lap maps were first installed at Aspen-area resorts a few years ago after a local entrepreneur lobbied top agency and elected officials. The Forest Service conducted a survey on the maps and ads to gauge customer response. In general, skier seemed to accept the maps as good public service, and didn’t seem to be bothered by the associated ads, Foreman said.

Kowynia’s take was that the jury is still out, as far a public acceptance of the ads, but he did say that replacing at least some of the area’s paper maps (a leading cause of ski area litter) represents an environmental plus.

And while the survey indicated some public acceptance of the ads, some of the Aspen areas also struggled with vandalism in the early days of the pilot project, to make the point that some of the areas put up handwritten signs at lift loading platforms, warning would-be vandals of potential consequences.

So far, there have been no specific proposals for any type of new advertising at Summit County’s resorts, aside from the snow bike question at Keystone, Foreman said.

Bob Berwyn can be reached at (970) 331-5996, or at

To comment

To view the interim policy, go to


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Written comments should be sent to Carolyn Holbrook, Recreation and Heritage Resources Staff (2340), 1400 Independence Ave., SW., Stop 1125, Washington, DC 20250-1125 or by fax to Carolyn Holbrook, (202) 205-1145.

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