Obama signs ski area legislation

Ski areas in California received good news this past week from the U.S. Forest Service, with the promise of up to 600 new jobs.

The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011, which was signed by President Barack Obama on Nov. 7, is estimated to create and annually sustain up to 600 extra jobs nationwide.

“This is very good news for us,” said Mammoth Mountain Ski Area spokesperson Joani Lynch.
She was not alone in her enthusiasm.

“This is great news for promoting job growth and economic stimulus in California,” said Regional Forester Randy Moore.

“Local restaurants, hotels and shop owners are likely to see an increase in business as visitors come to scenic Forest Service locations for year-round activities.”

In California, there are 25 ski areas on 11 national forests.

The new legislation amends the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986, which allowed only Nordic and alpine skiing. Under the new legislation, other snow sports may be permitted on National Forest System lands, as well as year-round activities. Potential permitted activities may include zip lines, mountain bike terrain parks and trails, Frisbee golf courses, and ropes courses.

“National forests will now be able to provide even more economic benefits to some hard-hit mountain communities,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Our national forests are America’s gems. Now more visitors will have so many more recreational opportunities on these beautiful lands in California.”

Nationwide, it is estimated that roughly 600,000 more summertime visits may create and sustain annually up to 600 more full-, part-time and seasonal jobs nationwide. This addition of summer recreation is expected to infuse almost $40 million of direct funding into mountain communities near ski areas.

Currently, the Forest Service averages 27 million visits annually to ski areas, which has in turn contributed $4 billion every year, and 80,000 jobs in rural communities.

Protecting natural resources on the Forest Service’s 122 ski areas will remain a priority and year-long facilities will be subject to the same review and approval processes as those for ski facilities such as the construction of ski lifts and ski trails.

Not all recreation activities will be permitted. Those considered to be destructive to the natural environment will be excluded, including tennis courts, water slides and water parks, swimming pools, golf courses, and amusement parks.