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USFS Guidelines Define What’s OK For Summertime Fun At Ski Resorts

Zipline at Angel Fire

This summer will be the first test for a set of National Forest regulations on what off-season activities can and cannot be available at ski and snowboard resorts on public lands.


Enacted in 2011, the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act now has a set of guidelines for summertime doins’ at the 122 ski areas operating on National Forest lands. In an attempt to bring in more revenue during non-skiing time, off-season pay-to-play attractions on public lands have become common – enough so to prompt the Forest Service to put regulations in place.


Some smaller mountains have found that summer revenues can be enough to keep them open in the winter. Snow King Mountain in downtown Jackson Hole, Wyo., has submitted plans for seven ziplines and an aerial adventure course. General manager Ryan Stanley said that these attractions might just rejuvenate the resort, which has been losing $500,000 annually.


Larger mountains, like Vail, see charging for summer activities as a source offseason revenues.


“Winter revenues are dramatically greater for our company, and they always will be,” said Blaise Carrig, president of Vail Resorts mountain division, in a Mountain Town News article. “What we are hoping for is that we can grow our summer business to significantly reduce or eliminate the loss quarters (of summer and fall).”


So far, approved activities include the ziplines, mountain bike trails and parks, Frisbee golf courses and ropes courses that have sprung up at American resorts in the past decade. The list is “non-exhaustive,” meaning other activities can be added to it that encourage enjoyment of the outdoors and natural surroundings.


“Some of these summer uses … can be natural-resource based, encourage outdoor recreation and enjoyment of nature, and harmonize with the natural environment,” the Forest Service said in its regulations.


Right now, the feds won’t allow facilities that are “common to amusement parks,” like merry-go-rounds, water slides, Ferris wheels, mini-train rides and roller coasters. Tennis courts, too, are prohibited on federal land and this list, too, may be lengthened over time.


Some resorts, such as the three mountains around Park City, have ample private lands where they can put up whatever meets local zoning codes, like golf courses. Most resorts maintain the traditional offseason scenic lift rides up the mountain, hiking and perhaps eating a picnic lunch.


Resorts typically open in late May or June for summer, but they change their Websites over to summer mode shortly after the winter season is over.


Photo: Zipline at Angel Fire, N.M. is among the many summer attractions at ski resorts (Angel Fire/Facebook)

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