The Forest Service has published three proposed new regulations addressing summer development at ski areas, advertising at base areas and uphill ski traffic. 

The proposed directive — which is open to public comment through Dec. 2 — arrives almost two years after Congress passed the Ski Area Summer Recreational Enhancement Opportunity Act, allowing the Forest Service to permit more year-round activities at ski areas on public land.

After eight years of evaluation, the new advertising policy was released in the spring.  The policy as written banned resorts from displaying the names of business partners such as car dealers on resort vehicles parked in ski-area lots. It also prevented ski demos with manufacturers such as Liberty or Never Summer offering their wares from branded tents.  Revisions to the advertising policy come directly from resort concerns.   

The new summer-development draft directive closely aligns with the wording of the legislation that authorized year-round activities.  The legislation was an update to the 1986 National Forest Ski Area Permit Act, which authorized only ski and snowboard activities at ski areas. The legislation specifically allowed the creation of ziplines, ropes courses, mountain-bike trails and disc golf. It prohibited more urban activities such as roller coasters, tennis courts, water parks and golf courses.

Vail Resorts was a major supporter of the legislation, and the company’s year-round Epic Discovery program at its flagship Vail ski area is leader in summer activity development.  Though Vail’s plans for an alpine coaster on private land at its Beaver Creek ski area has drawn a lawsuit from local homeowners who describe the so-called Forest Flyer as a roller coaster.

At Vail, Forest Service planners have developed a zoning concept that pushes certain activities into appropriate areas, such as concerts and events at the high-use Adventure Ridge and village base area, and trails and canopy tours in more remote areas.

The third proposed regulation requires ski areas leave some portion of the Forest Service land available to users for no charge. While the ski area cannot charge users an entrance fee, it can charge visitors who are using facilities or groomed trails. Resorts want to make sure they are able to charge a nominal fee, such as Crested Butte which sales an inexpensive pass for use of trails blanketed with man-made snow and groomed.

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