Mark Udall talks skiing in Glenwood |

Mark Udall talks skiing in Glenwood

Pete Fowler
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
A member of the National Ski Council Federation takes a photograph as U.S. Rep. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) talks to the group about issues such as beetle-kill and climate change Saturday morning at the Ramada Inn in Glenwood Springs. (Kara K. Pearson/Post Independent)

GLENWOOD SPRINGS ” Skiers and snowboarders looking for thrills on the slopes don’t typically appear before Congress.

But Congressman Mark Udall said the Congressional Ski and Snowboard Caucus might be able represent their interests.

The ski and snowboard caucus was one topic mentioned during Udall’s remarks at the National Ski Council Federation’s annual meeting Saturday. Udall said he helped found it, and that although it hasn’t been as active as he’d like, the caucus can grow and examine federal policies. For example, the airline industry is inconsistent on its baggage rules for ski equipment.

“These inconsistent rules only work to discourage people from taking up the sport or going beyond just a handful of trips,” he said in prepared remarks. “It’s an obstacle that should be eliminated.”

He spoke to the crowd of 60 to 80 ski council and ski industry representatives, next talking about the potentially devastating impact unhealthy forests susceptible to wildfire could have on resort communities.

“We are in the midst of a very dramatic beetle-kill cycle in our lodgepole forests,” he said.

Mother nature holds the upper hand, he said, but we must do everything we can to mitigate the impacts. Udall said several years ago he encouraged the Federal Emergency Management Agency to consider disaster mitigation for communities like Winter Park that are facing lots of beetle-kill.

He said, “FEMA’s response was not much better for us than New Orleans.”

According to Udall, the beetle-kill phenomenon can’t be eliminated, but the threat of wildfire from dead trees can be reduced. He said this is why a year ago he partnered with Rep. John Salazar on the first bark-beetle bill in Congress.

That bill is designed to authorize funds to thin dead trees, which can be used to encourage biomass energy. It would also lead to better forest management to keep bark beetles in check, he added.

Climate change was another topic of discussion.

“It’s real. It’s happening,” he said. “And there’s a lot we can do.”

Udall encouraged people to push for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. He said he’d also introduced a bill to study weather modification efforts such as cloud seeding. He said the effects and effectiveness of cloud seeding aren’t known well enough, and more should be learned. Udall, who said that during his mountaineering efforts he has once “ridden in an avalanche,” also supports efforts to better study avalanches and snow behavior.

Udall said transportation is another huge issue that needs to be addressed for Colorado resorts, in particular Interstate 70. Bumper to bumper traffic from the Front Range doesn’t help the ski industry.

“I think we have to have a transit option on our I-70 corridor,” Udall said.

He said his office was also involved in petitioning the federal government to work with ski areas to make sure roadless areas were available for ski use as long as they went through the appropriate evaluation process.

Udall talked about immigration, a “hotly debated and hugely important” issue for resort economies. Udall said that besides his support of the broader issue of increasing border security and management, he supports increasing the number of temporary H-2B work visas that are issued to accommodate seasonal workers.

“The H-2B visa cap is often met in the first 72 hours of opening,” he said.

He kicked off his speech by praising some local attractions, like the Hotel Colorado and Hot Springs Pool.

“I was at the Hotel Colorado this morning, enjoying the history that you just feel in that wonderful old site,” he said.

And Colorado skiing.

“I just think we have the best skiing, not only in the nation, but in the world,” he said.