Udall touts ski area bill in the High Country
VAIL – With bike riders flying behind him, Sen. Mark Udall talked Friday about the importance of summer recreation at ski areas.Udall, a Boulder-area Democrat, was in Vail on Friday to talk a bit about the “Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Act,” a bill he’s sponsoring in this year’s session of Congress. Udall sponsored essentially the same bill last year, where it fell victim to election-year politics. But, Udall said, he’s confident the bill can pass this year. If the bill does pass, Udall and the bill’s supporters out in ski-resort country say it will open up new economic opportunities in the resorts that operate on public land – which is most of them. Here’s why:Thanks to a law passed in the 1980s, the U.S. Forest Service can only review resort improvements directly related to skiing – trails, lifts, on-mountain restaurants and the like. Summer activities – alpine slides, zip lines and such – can’t even be considered. Udall’s bill would change that.And ski areas and resort communities are keen to open up ski areas to more summer recreation. This weekend’s Teva Mountain Games at Golden Peak were held on private property, so didn’t need Forest Service approval. An alpine slide at Breckenridge is also on private land.Vail Resorts co-president John Garnsey said the Breckenridge slide has been a hit, and said the company is eager to do more.”It’s a chance to enhance the reasons to come to Vail in the summer,” Vail Town Councilwoman Kim Newbury said.While Garnsey said any summer improvements would be subject to the same environmental review winter improvements are subject to, he said having the chance to expand summer facilities could “lift the local and state economy.”While waiting for a more clear path, Vail Resorts has been planning. Garnsey said summer improvements at Vail and Beaver Creek could include zip lines and “canopy tours,” in which people ride a series of zip lines above the forest.”It’s a great way to experience the forest from a different perspective,” he said.And, while a plan for an alpine slide on private land at Beaver Creek was short-circuited by complaints from neighboring homeowners, Garnsey said it’s possible a slide could be built at the top of a lift.”We could have events like Teva more frequently,” said Rich Tenbraak, director of the Vail Chamber & Business Association. “It could bring even more summer vitality to the town we love.”
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