Work Stalled on Snowbowl Snowmaking 

First Tricks Online
10 July 2010

Flagstaff, Arizona—Work on Arizona Snowbowl's long debated snowmaking project has been placed on hold, both by the U.S. Forest Service and the ski area's owners.

Arizona Snowbowl operates on U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land in the Coconino National Forest northwest of Flagstaff. Environmentalists and Native Americans took the USFS to federal court in 2006 over the ski area's expansion plans to use reclaimed water for snowmaking, with Native Americans arguing that the land in Arizona's San Francisco Peaks was sacred in their culture and that spraying treated wastewater on the mountain represented an affront to their traditions. The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of the ski area and the Forest Service, and in June 2009, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to reconsider the case.

Since then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has spent 13 months working with both sides to strike a compromise on the plan, although several of the tribes involved in the discussions in May expressed their opposition to snowmaking at the ski area in any form. In fact, Navajo Nation president Joe Shirley has indicated that his tribe's ultimate solution would be to end skiing at Snowbowl altogether. As a result, Shirley has sought federal money to buy the ski area. Snowbowl owner Eric Borowsky has proposed a price of $47 million in the event that snowmaking is disallowed.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a construction permit for a pipeline to carry the water from Flagstaff to the ski area. The Flagstaff water source currently sought for Snowbowl's snowmaking is of culinary quality after the treated wastewater seeps back through the ground into the local aquifer. That plan still requires the approval of the Flagstaff City Council.

Should that effort be rejected by the Flagstaff City Council, Snowbowl's owners could revert to the original plan to use treated wastewater instead.

Now, however, Snowbowl's owners have placed logging, grading and trench-digging associated with the project on hold until at least July 21, when a hearing is scheduled in another lawsuit in which the Navajo tribe asserts that the federal government did not adequately consider whether reclaimed water was safe for snowmaking if the snow were to be ingested.

Furthermore, the Coconino National Forest had not received site-specific plans it needed to approve construction, further placing the project on hold until at least later this summer. It now appears unlikely that Snowbowl will be making snow this coming ski season.

The project would represent Snowbowl's first effort to make snow in the ski area's 71-year history, a process seven years in the making. Snowbowl's owners argue that the mountain's erratic snowfall history requires snowmaking in order for the ski area to remain financially viable. In addition to snowmaking, the project's plans call for new ski runs, increased parking and a new sledding area.



Reprinted as an historical reference document under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law.