Udall lauds Senate passage of bill for ski areas’ off season

U.S. Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colo., on Wednesday cheered the Senate’s passage the prior evening of legislation clarifying the ability of ski areas to offer more year-round uses on federal lands.

“I’ve been fighting for five years to pass the bill, which will help create year-round jobs in Colorado ski communities at no cost to taxpayers,” Udall said in a teleconference with reporters.

The bill was passed unanimously Tuesday night as part of a package of public lands bills. It now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature. U.S. Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, had introduced it in the House, where it was unanimously passed earlier this month.

The bill updates 1986 legislation under which Forest Service permits for ski areas identify only Alpine and Nordic skiing as allowable activities, technically not even acknowledging snowboarding as a use.

Udall said the result of the old legislation’s vagueness was inconsistent processes and approvals by Forest Service officials at local levels when it came to activities resorts wanted to offer.

He said the agency and ski industry both asked for the clarifying legislation, which is aimed at broadening summertime use of resorts. It specifically allows activities such as mountain biking, zip lines, Frisbee golf courses and rope courses, and prohibits attractions such as tennis courts, water slides and parks, swimming pools, golf courses and amusement parks.

“The law will not turn mountains into amusement parks,” Udall said.

Udall said passing the bill had become “job one” for him, and he decided a few weeks ago that “it was just time to get it done.”

Legislative machinations also had something to do with the ski bill’s success in the Senate this year. The bill’s popularity allowed senators to attach other bills to it in hopes of getting their measures passed as well, further increasing support for it.

“If you will, my bill was an engine that could pull a lot of cars behind it,” Udall said.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., also were principal sponsors of the respective House and Senate bills.


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