Colorado's Arapahoe Basin Ski Area may lack frills, but it has terrain and scenery that can get any outdoors-person excited. A big part of that is because it’s located on public lands.
"We have a special use permit with the U.S. Forest Service," said Tony Cammarata, director of operations at the ski area. "We consider it an honor to be able to take care of this land."
Of the 525 ski area across the country, 124 of them operate on public land. They pay a percentage of their profits for a permit to operate. The U.S. Forest Service says the ski area permits brings in about $40 million annually, but all the money goes to the general fund, not public lands.
"The ski area fees is the only one that I can think of that we get nothing back to the home unit," said Scott Fitzwilliams, the forest supervisor of Colorado’s White River National Forest, where Arapahoe Basin, along with 11 other ski areas, are located.
The Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development Act, aptly abbreviated as the SHRED Act, would help take a hefty portion of that $40 million and give it back into the nation’s forests.
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The SHRED Act would allocate 80% of the fees collected for authorized uses at the local National Forests where ski areas are located. The other 20% would go to serve the recreational needs in all national forests.
Fitzwilliams says this would be crucial since U.S. National Forests have seen a dramatic increase in visitors since the pandemic, making maintenance difficult under current budgets.
"Five years ago, our visitation was 13.5 million. Now, it's approaching 18 million, so, if you can imagine, just trying to manage those increases of recreation, it requires staffing, it requires infrastructure, it requires maintenance and all those things," Fitzwilliams said, describing White River National Forest's attendance.
While support for the SHRED Act is bipartisan, the bill had to be reintroduced this year.
Cammarata hopes this second go around will be successful. He believes that everyone benefits when the forests benefit.
"There's no reason to think that we're going to see any less visitation in the near future, so we can't be reactive all the time when it comes to managing these lands," he said. "We have to be proactive."
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