Friday, February 25, 2011

Bill could open up options on Baldy

Allowed activities would include zip line, Frisbee golf

Express Staff Writer

The local axiom "Come for the winters, stay for the summers" could become even more true if a Colorado lawmaker's ski-area bill is made federal law.

Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., introduced a bill last week that would open up regulations for ski areas in national forests. The bill is currently being considered in the Senate Committee for Energy and Natural Resources.

Federal law allows resorts such as Sun Valley to lease land from the U.S. Forest Service for Nordic and alpine skiing, but the new bill would also allow summer activities such as zip lines, mountain bike trails, Frisbee golf and ropes courses on ski areas.

Tim Silva, general manager of Sun Valley Resort, said the resort already has approval for some activities that current law does not explicitly allow.

"Hiking, mountain biking, scenic rides and dining are all well-established summer activities on Baldy," Silva said.


Despite the slate of winter and summer activities available on Ketchum's Bald Mountain, existing law does not explicitly allow snowboarding, mountain biking or hiking in ski areas.

The Forest Service has discretion regarding approval of these and other activities, which is why snowboarders can be seen tearing it up in the bowls and bikers regularly make their way to the mountain's slopes in warmer months.

Udall argued that it would be helpful to both the Forest Service and resorts to have approved activities defined by law.

Silva said that if the bill is approved, it may not have an impact on Sun Valley Resort.

"Some interesting additional opportunities will arise if the bill passes, but our current focus is to improve the hiking and mountain biking trail system on the mountain," he said.

The current version of the proposal would also allow summer concerts in ski areas, but would prohibit amusement parks, tennis courts, waterslides and golf courses.

The bill is similar to one co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, last year. Brad Hoaglun, a spokesman for the senator, said Risch would "likely" co-sponsor the new bill as well. Hoaglun said the legislation has support from nine ski areas statewide, including Brundage and Lookout.

The bill's future looks good, Hoaglun said.

"Since it doesn't require funding, there's a good chance for it to get through committee and the Senate," he said. "But there are never any guarantees."

Katherine Wutz:

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