Vail Resorts wants more summer options | AspenTimes.com

Vail Resorts wants more summer options

Lauren Glendenning
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Vail Daily file Andre Swanson, left, and Ted Miller, right, play the Vail disc golf course at the top of Vail Mountain. Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz is hoping Congress will pass a bill that would allow the company to offer more summer activities on the mountain.

VAIL, Colo. – Vail Resorts Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz is interested in seeing a bill pass through Congress that would make it easier to get more summer activities approved at his company’s ski resorts.

Katz testified before he U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Thursday in Washington to tell members to back the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2009, or House Bill 2476, sponsored by Colorado’s Rep. Diana DeGette.

Katz told the committee there were 57.8 million skier and snowboarder visits on average throughout National Ski Areas Association resorts over the last five years.

“Ski areas are the perfect place to accommodate these large numbers of forest visitors, and not just in the winter,” Katz said during his testimony.

While ski areas “inspire appreciation for the natural environment,” they’re also developed areas that are accessible and convenient for visitors, he said.

The bill would amend the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 to allow year-round mountain resort activities “as determined appropriate.”

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Vail Resorts wants the bill to pass because it would be a consistent way to go about growing year-round recreation at ski areas across the country, he said. There’s a lack of consistency about what’s allowed at ski resorts during the summer, he said.

“Alpine slides exist in various parts of the country on public land, however with the exception of the Pacific Northwest, resorts in most ski states are not even allowed to submit a proposal for a new alpine slide,” Katz said.

Katz said traditional summer uses like hiking, chairlift rides, mountain biking, concerts and Frisbee golf, which are already authorized at ski resorts around the country, should be grandfathered in the bill as allowed uses. He said other uses that are authorized in some ski resort areas in the country and not others should be given the chance. Examples would be alpine slides, zip lines, mountain bike parks and climbing walls.

U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who represents the Vail area, also testified on behalf of the bill, stating that skiing is more than just an activity in his district, but it’s a way of life and critical to the local economy.

“The ability of ski areas to offer these benefits year-round means the survival of communities and businesses not just in my district, but across the country,” Polis said. “It means a more stable economy, better communities and a better quality of life by balancing the influx of winter guests with the void of summer visitors.”

For Katz, the bill would mean his five ski resorts, along with more than 100 resorts around the country, could expand what they offer to guests outside of the ski seasons. The bill would bring clarity and fairness to all resorts, he testified.

Polis agreed that flexibility in the laws is needed. He said the changing climate and changing ski season is all the more reason to give ski areas a year-round economic foundation.

lglendenning@vaildaily.com