First Tricks Online
10 July 2010
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.
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.
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.
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
that effort be rejected by the Flagstaff City Council,
Snowbowl's owners could revert to the original plan to
use treated wastewater instead.
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.
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.