On Monday, November 7, 2011, President Obama signed H.R. 765, the “Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011,” into law. The new legislation clarifies the authority of the Secretary of Agriculture regarding additional recreational uses of National Forest System land that is subject to ski area permits.
According to Summit Daily, the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act “permits year-long recreation opportunities on U.S. Forest Service ski areas, boosting rural economies while continuing to maintain stringent environmental safeguards.”
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.Currently, the Forest Service averages 27 million visits annually to ski areas. This has contributed $4 billion every winter and created approximately 80,000 full-, part-time and seasonal jobs in hard-hit rural communities. Under the new legislation, the Forest Service anticipates roughly 600,000 more summertime visits that may create and sustain up to 600 more full-, part-time and seasonal jobs. The addition of summer recreation is expected to infuse almost $40 million of direct funding into local mountain communities.
Protecting natural resources 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.
“The national forests have always been some of America’s greatest playgrounds,” said U.S. Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell. “It is exciting that our ski areas will now be able to offer more recreational opportunities and economic benefits.”