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October 04, 2010

Snowbowl Gets Go-ahead for Some Improvements

Snowbowl gets started on some improvements, others still on hold including snowmaking:

FLAGSTAFF - Changes are coming to the Arizona Snowbowl. The Arizona Daily Sun reports the resort has received permission to add a conveyor-belt that would carry beginning skiers uphill. The ski resort has also gotten the OK to log a new ski trail...

Work on the 150-foot-long conveyor belt is set to begin this fall. The conveyor belt is intended to save beginning skiers a walk uphill during lessons.

Plans call for regrading a 1.5-acre area due north of its lower lodge with bulldozers to create a flatter teaching area.

Good news for Snowbowl, but a snowmaking decision is still needed so they can make all the improvements planned.

Posted by Justin at 11:27 PM | Comments (1)

September 23, 2010

Skiing in AZ to Take a Major Hit--Sunrise in Financial Trouble

This from the White Mountain Independent:

APACHE COUNTY - It looks like there will be only one mountain opening for this year's ski season at Sunrise Park Resort due to economic woes. The resort is owned and operated by the White Mountain Apache Tribe. Only one mountain opening up is not certain. The Tribe said all of its efforts are focused on opening a single mountain in early December.

Lift ticket pricing on the single mountain that will be in operation has yet to be determined.

Sunrise Park Resort General Manager Marilyn Lovato said that the ongoing recession has also forced cancellation of the Junior Pass Promotion scheduled for Oct. 9 and 10.

"The White Mountain Apache Tribe, along with Sunrise management are being proactive in decision making and are facing difficult choices," Lovato said...

"As the result of current economic state of the resort, the promotion and the winter white-out sale held in conjunction with the promotion have been cancelled," Lovato said, adding that the resort has stopped selling season passes and is refunding any that have already been purchased.

This is horrible news for Arizona Skiers. And right after I ended my boycott over Arizona Snowbowl.

To compound matters, Snowbowl does not have snowmaking and is not economically viable either.

Skiing may be over in Arizona. Not to be overly dramatic, but the Navajos and Hopis have stated they want to completely shut Snowbowl down:

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley asked Merrigan to end skiing at Snowbowl, or for federal money to help the tribes buy Snowbowl.

"The ideal resolution would be to stop skiing in the area," he wrote in an August 2009 letter.

The White Mountain Apaches cannot figure out how to run their resort and the Navajos and Hopis want to shut down the only other resort in the state.

Not exactly shaping up to be a good year in AZ.

Posted by Justin at 11:08 PM | Comments (2)

September 21, 2009

Deja Vu

Didn'y we try this before?

FLAGSTAFF - Critics in a yearslong fight to block expansion of a ski resort on an Arizona mountain that American Indian tribes consider sacred are suing the U.S. Forest Service.

The lawsuit filed Monday comes more than three months after the U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal from tribes that said the use of treated wastewater to make artificial snow threatened their religious and cultural survival.

The lawsuit filed by the Save the Peaks Coalition and a group of citizens contends the Forest Service failed to consider the human health risks of ingesting snow made with treated wastewater at the Arizona Snowbowl resort outside Flagstaff.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously sided with the tribes on that contention. The full court later overturned the decision, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it.

That is what the Sierra Club does. Just keep suing until someone listens or until the business runs out of money.

Posted by Justin at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)

June 08, 2009

Snowbowl Finally Prevails - Snowmaking Will Not Start This Season

The Snowbowl Ordeal is finally over once and for all:

The United States Supreme Court on Monday turned down a request by several Arizona Indian tribes to stop a Flagstaff ski area from making artificial snow from treated wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks.

The case has bounced through federal court for several years, and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered the case twice, first siding with the Native Americans, who revere the mountains as sacred sites. Last August, the Appeals Court reconsidered in favor of the management of Arizona Snowbowl.

At issue is whether religious groups can trump the mandated multiple uses of federal land by the general public. Snowbowl sits in the Coconino National Forest, not on Indian land.

Several Native American tribes, including the Navajo, who were the lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai, and Apaches, believe using reclaimed wastewater there was tantamount to dumping sewage on their sacred sites.

The Indians and supporting environmental groups took the case to the Supreme Court, which discussed the case in closed conference last Thursday. On Monday the news was posted that the court had turned down the case, letting the lower court decision stand.

The decision essentially clears the way for Snowbowl to make artificial snow, although it won't happen this season.

The only real surprise in the whole thing was the first 9th Circuit ruling that likened snowmaking with treated wastewater to using sewer water at a Christian baptism. It makes you wonder what crack that judge was smoking.

Congrats to Snowbowl and cannot wait for them to get snowmaking installed and open the new terrain.

Posted by Justin at 12:23 PM | Comments (1)

April 03, 2009

Final Weekend of Season at Arizona Snowbowl

From KTAR.com:

The Arizona Snowbowl is wrapping up a good season.

The ski area near Flagstaff will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Sunday, then will close for the season.

"This year, we've had more than 130,000 people come up," said the Snowbowl's Dave Smith. "I think we're looking at about 135,000. I haven't seen the numbers lately, but it certainly has been a successful season. We're not really looking forward to winding down, but summer's just about here."

Another winter storm is moving in as the season winds down.

"At this point, the forecast is calling for just a minimal amount of snow showers," Smith said. "We wish it was a lot more, but all in all, it's been a phenomenal season. We've had a blast."

The final weekend of skiing will celebrate the Snowbowl's second straight good season.

"We've got 30-dollar adult lift tickets and 12-dollars for juniors ages 8 to 12," Smith said. "The last weekend, we're going to go out with a big bang -- lots of party atmosphere, lots of fun. We want people to come up and join us."

Smith said the Snowbowl has had about 198 inches of snow this season. It opened Dec. 20 and will close April 5.

Not a ton of snow, but it came early and set the table for a long winter season.

Posted by Justin at 07:42 PM | Comments (3)

January 29, 2009

Casino Revenue in AZ Down--How Do They Fund SCOTUS Case Against Snowbowl Now

A little note on Indian Gaming revenue:

Revenue plunged at Arizona's 22 Indian casinos during the fourth quarter, as the worsening recession kept gamblers away from the tribes' gaming tables and slot machines.

Based on fees paid to the state, the casinos' combined revenue was down 16 percent, marking the biggest quarterly drop since Arizona Indian gaming was legalized in 1993.

"People are saving their money," said Sheila Morago, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association.

The casinos don't break out revenue figures on a quarterly basis.

I guess the Sierra Club will have to make up the difference if WMA, Navajo, and Hopi gaming revenue falls... Actually, only the WMA tribe has casinos if I remember right.

I was reading a book the other day The Millionaire Mind and it talked about gambling and how almost all of the successful millionaires surveyed for the book did not gamble. Indian Casinos are especially problematic in my mind because they don't face nearly the regulation that Vegas and other casinos do.

I won't rant too much about it, but I took notice of the situation when the WMA tribe started using casino money to fight Snowbowl's snowmaking. It is their right to do, even though I disagree with their legal footing. The WMA tribe fundamentally bothers me that they run casinos and a ski resort and use the the funds from these businesses to fight Snowbowl on religious freedom grounds.

Posted by Justin at 04:57 PM | Comments (2)

January 19, 2009

Snowbowl Press Release on Traffic Capacity

A Press Release from AZ Snowbowl:

Ski area capacity is determined by the number of cars in the parking lots. We can hold between 1,200 and 1,400 vehicles depending on the snow conditions, plowing, icy spots, etc. We average 2.58 persons per vehicle which coincides very closely with our ticket sales and skier count of between 3,000 and 3,500. The holidays have been the historical busy days over the last ten years as our parking capacity has not changed.

Working with the Forest Service we have agreed that the way we manage the parking and Snowbowl Road ensures a consistent method to measure and manage the busier days at the ski area. We do anticipate the busiest of days to be behind us now. We have seen unprecedented numbers of snow players in Flagstaff, thus causing more traffic congestion. We have been working with local law enforcement to help ease the congestion. One recommendation is to not turn right on to Humphreys Street, but to continue straight, over Schweitzer Mesa, turn left on Route 66, then your next right to Butler Avenue and the I‐40 interchange. This is typically a much faster route.

As our parking lots fill we first turn away folks who do not have ski or snowboard gear as our rental shop is typically out of inventory. Sledders are not allowed up. When the lots are completely full, they are completely full; any additional vehicles create safety issues. We do however try to allow those with their own equipment and season pass holders up as vehicles come down the mountain. We do have parking crews monitoring the situation and communicating with others as space opens. This is a dynamic, day by day, proposition. During these busiest of times we ask for your patience and understanding. On holidays and weekends, we recommend being at the ski area by 8:30 AM. If you are renting ski or snowboard equipment from Snowbowl, please be here by 8:00 AM. This will give you plenty of time to get safely on the slopes.

Please finalize the snowmaking decision at the SCOTUS and get this fixed. PLEASE!

Posted by Justin at 10:37 AM

December 30, 2008

Snowbowl Turns Away Customers Because of Insufficient Parking

People from Phoenix and Tucson want skiing in Flagstaff. Plain and simple. There is not enough parking or lift capacity to meet demand. Hence why it makes sense to upgrade the parking, add snowmaking, improve lifts, and open new terrain... unless you are the competition, the Sierra Club, or the Hopis and Navajos. But again, that is another matter:

Arizona Snowbowl filled up on Saturday, with an estimated 3,500 skiers, and again on Monday, said General Manager J.R. Murray.

Traffic leaving Snowbowl was at a crawl on Saturday, so about 400 customers stayed at the lodge for two extra hours, until about 8:30 p.m., to wait it out.

"We're trying our best to accommodate everybody," Murray said.

Some received vouchers or discounts, for long waits.

Avondale resident Steve Navis was one unhappy customer when Snowbowl's lift lines and parking lots filled up on Saturday.

He started up Snowbowl Road at 9:30 a.m. Saturday and, after lift tickets and lift lines, hit the slopes at 12:45 p.m.

Most of his group got in two runs for the day, due to large crowds. Then it took them 3 1/2 hours to descend Snowbowl Road.

It's a dilemma for the business, said Murray, which typically has 10 or fewer days per season that reach capacity.

"People don't want to get turned away after they've driven here, but at the same time, they don't want long lines," Murray said.

Demand is there. The area is there. Just a couple improvements away from having consistent seasons with artificial snow so that people do not all try to cram into the area at one time. Some additional parking. Some more lift capacity.

I feel bad for the people that got turned away. No business wants to turn people away. Every single unhappy person that drove up the mountain and got the boot should thank Joe Shirley and the Sierra Club for their attempts to block the improvements that would already be completed if not for their lawsuits. Instead of skiing at Snowbowl, a good way to spend the weekend is watching a Beatlemania knockoff concert at the local Indian Casino in Phoenix. OK, that was unfair, this is a different tribe, not the Navajos or Hopis, but still, come one. Beatles Knockoff band?

Posted by Justin at 04:14 PM

December 22, 2008

Arizona Snowbowl Open for Season

The recent snows have helped Snowbowl achieve 100% open status:

ARIZONA SNOWBOWL IS NOW OPEN FOR THE 2008-2009 SKI SEASON

We are happy to be operating with 100% of the resort open. We now operate daily 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM, including holidays. Conditions are incredible. Spend your holidays with us on the slopes.

No thanks to Dave Smith for giving me a heads up or anything... (j/k) I am going to hit him up for some lift tickets just for forgetting the resort's biggest snowmaking supporter.

Posted by Justin at 05:48 PM

October 09, 2008

Court to Delay Snowbowl Upgrades Pending SCOTUS Appeal

The latest on Arizona Snowbowl's Upgrades:

FLAGSTAFF - A federal appeals court that approved a plan for snowmaking on an Arizona peak sacred to Indian tribes is giving opponents time to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Friday granted a request to delay any construction at the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort near Flagstaff until the high court can decide if it will hear the tribes' appeal.

Tribal lawyer Harry Shanker says the order preserves the status quo and protects the rights of the Indians opposed to resort's plan to make snow on the San Francisco Peaks.

The appeals court cleared the way for the snowmaking in August after a yearslong court battle. The Supreme Court only takes about one percent of the cases it receives.

I don't see a SCOTUS appeal happening, but this is fairly standard. I think the end was the 9th Circuit Ruling, but I am not an attorney either.

Posted by Justin at 01:35 PM

August 10, 2008

More Info on the Arizona Snowbowl Snowmaking and Expansion

The EIS is available at the Forest Service Website. We all know about the snowmaking aspect of the expansion, but the trail expansion and additional lift will be huge improvements.

Here is the existing layout of the resort.

Here is the "after" picture of the new terrain.

The realignment of the Sunset lift will open a sizable amount of new terrain, but the new Humphreys lift will be the biggest improvement.

Compare the resort side by side. The biggest problem with Snowbowl now is the lack of lift capacity to meet demand for intermediate and advanced terrain. The Agassiz lift is always swamped by college kids. This will go a long way towards addressing that. And the snowmaking will ensure a reasonably long season to make it all worthwhile.

In short, Arizona will have two viable ski resorts, now including one run and owned by actual skiers, not folks that make their living off gambling and who refuse to clear glades or provide quality customer service. Sunrise has so much potential, but their actions regarding Snowbowl have been reprehensible.

Posted by Justin at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

August 08, 2008

Arizona Snowbowl Snowmaking Ruling From 9th Circuit

I am reading the ruling from the 9th Circuit right now. Will update. Preliminary is that Snowbowl won and District Court decision was reaffirmed.

Updates forthcoming.

UPDATE:

In this case, American Indians ask us to prohibit the federal government from allowing the use of artificial snow for skiing on a portion of a public mountain sacred in their religion. At the heart of their claim is the planned use of recycled wastewater, which contains 0.0001% human waste, to make artificial snow. The Plaintiffs claim the use of such snow on a sacred mountain desecrates the entire mountain, deprecates their religious ceremonies, and injures their religious sensibilities. We are called upon to decide whether this government approved use of artificial snow on government-owned park land violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (“RFRA”), the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (“NEPA”), and the National Historic Preservation Act (“NHPA”). We hold that it does not, and affirm the district court’s denial of relief on all grounds.

Take that. Still reading...

UPDATE:

Thus, the sole effect of the artificial snow is on the plaintiffs’ subjective spiritual experience. That is, the presence of the artificial snow on the Peaks is offensive to the Plaintiffs’ feelings about their religion and will decrease the spiritual fulfillment Plaintiffs get from practicing their religion on the mountain. Nevertheless, a government action that decreases the spirituality, the fervor, or the satisfaction with which a believer practices his religion is not what Congress has labeled a “substantial burden”—a term of art chosen by Congress to be defined by reference to Supreme Court precedent —on the free exercise of religion.

Wow.

Analysis:

We live in a society with multiple competing versions of what is spiritually important for folks. For instance, folks in Texas believe that the only way to achieve Celestial Glory is to marry multiple wives. Others believe that sacrificing animals is a spiritual experience. Some folks do funky piercings of flesh for their spirituality. And while the Hopi and Navajo belief structure is rather prominent and mainstream, it should be afforded no more or less rights than any other denomination.

I can imagine that if an airport is built near my church or a runway extended or additional flight traffic approved, it would decrease my subjective religious experience. But because it might degrade my subjective religious experience, it certainly should not prohibit any soft of progress or expansion simply out of my desire to not have my subjective religious experience change.

And at the end of the day, that is what this is about--Hopis and Navajos wanting to maintain their subjective experience on the Peaks... wait, that is not what this is about. This is about racism. Hundreds of years of anger and bitterness about racism. And an opportunity to drive a stake into the ground and take some land from the White Man for once. Take away their ski resorts. Stick it to them. And make it over religion in doing it. But it is not even about that. It is about the Sierra Club and the WMA tribe wanting to shut down their competition or to stop new development.

Regardless of which of these explanations you want to choose as the motivation for the above parties, all of their reasons lack sufficient reasoning to stop the development. And short of the SCOTUS taking the issue on, and by all means send it to Roberts and Alito and Thomas and Scalia to decide, I think this is over. A SCOTUS decision would actually be even more harmful to the Environmental movement because it would codify this decision where it cannot be overturned even among the Liberal 9th Circuit.

Posted by Justin at 02:58 PM

May 14, 2008

May 13 - 11" of Snow Falls at Flagstaff

Damn that Global Warming... er... Climate Change:

There were no April showers to bring any May flowers, but many Arizonans woke to snow, spotty rain and strong winds Tuesday morning during the typically warm month of May.

The low-pressure system that brought the wet weather had passed through the state just after noon, but a 30 percent chance of rain in the Valley still existed, according to the National Weather Service.

The Valley saw just trace amounts of rain throughout the morning along with wind gusts of up to 41 mph, according to the weather service. Meanwhile, the Flagstaff airport had about three inches of snow and around 11 inches of snow fell at Sunset Crater northeast of Flagstaff.

Climate Change, baby. Man-made. I drove my SUV to Starbucks today getting 15.6 MPG knowing that I am doing my part to cause Flagstaff snowfall.

Posted by Justin at 01:02 AM | Comments (2)

February 21, 2008

The La Nina that Wasn't

On November 4th, I posted about this season's La Nina and the predicted effects on the Southwest:

"La Niña has been closer to above-normal North and below-normal South trends," Pringle said with regard to snow conditions.

Snowfall in the San Juans could be average or a bit below normal. The National Weather Service predicts La Niña's effect on New Mexico and Arizona to be much more apparent, with less precipitation and higher than average temperatures.

In a word--NO. Not so much. Turns out that Wolf Creek in the San Juans is already sitting at very close to 500" and there are still almost two months left in the season. Sunrise and Snowbowl both opened before Christmas and Snowbowl has already received 200"+ for the season.

I am left to ponder the fact that despite almost 100 years of studying El Nino, the folks that make climate predictions have still been unable to predict weather paterns with any accuracy. Last year was an El Nino year, but despite predictions for record snowfall in the Southwest, we got far below average snowfall, so much so that Arizona Snowbowl barely opened for two weeks. This year is a La Nina year and snowfall is above average at three of the four southwest resorts that I ski (Wolf Creek, Brian Head, Sunrise and Snowbowl).

But we do have a looming climate crisis. It is not rising ocean levels, but rather food shortages and starvation:

The United Nations is stepping in to try to rescue Tajikistan from a social catastrophe brought on by severe winter weather. But even if an emergency UN appeal for assistance generates a robust international response, it is questionable whether Tajikistan will be able to avoid entering a downward spiral, featuring pestilence and widespread hunger...

China’s inflation accelerated in January to 7.1 percent - its rate highest in more than a decade - amid snowstorms that fueled a spike in food costs, according to data reported Tuesday...

But economists have raised their inflation forecasts for the first half of 2008 after freak snowstorms battered China’s south, killing millions of farm animals and wrecking crops.

Chinese leaders are especially worried about the political impact of rapidly rising food costs, which hit the country’s poor majority hard.

The winter even included snow in Baghdad for the first time in a century:

Snow fell on Baghdad on Friday for the first time in memory, and delighted residents declared it an omen of peace.

“It is the first time we’ve seen snow in Baghdad,” said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. “We’ve seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished,” he said.

It has been an odd year. One that has been wetter than expected in the southwest, which we badly need. Somehow, I don't think that the Chinese, when confronted with calls for them to cut greenhouse gasses to combat global warming and when faced with a massive famine crisis because of an abnormally cold winter, will be inclined to take steps to be more environmentally friendly. And I don't think that the myriad of articles promising the demise of skiing are particullarly grounded in fact. Scares like this in particullar:

PARK CITY, UTAH (AP) — Another winter storm headed to Utah could bring two feet of snow and frigid temperatures to the Wasatch mountains. But don't let that fool you.

Utah's trademark Greatest Snow on Earth could be a memory by 2075, say a pair of Colorado climatologists, who warn that global warming could shrink the ski season to a mere two months a year.

Some interesting reading on the subject can be found at Warren Miller's New West Blog. He is skeptical of the global warming hysteria so prevalent in the ski industry too. What if we are wrong about the long term predictions for global warming? 2008's snowfall in Asia provides a disturbing prediction of what global cooling or a new mini-iceage will look like.


Posted by Justin at 02:06 PM | Comments (1)

February 05, 2008

Huge Snowstorm at Sunrise Shuts Down Highway

Skiers driving to Sunrise are gonna be pissed:

Winter snow cut off access to the Sunrise Park Resort ski area Tuesday morning.

Arizona 260 between McNary and Greer was closed, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

The road was expected to reopen by 4 p.m. Tuesday. The ski resort will be closed for the day, according to its Web site.

Information about highway conditions is available on ADOT's Travel Information site at www.az511.com or by calling 511.

I am hearing 3'+ yesterday. Snowbowl got almost 2' and has excellent conditions too. Snowbowl has some great pics on their homepage.

I am heading to Jackson Hole this weekend and where they have nothing but snow in the forecast. I am debating taking a trip to Brokeback Mountain Ski Area where their ski report says:

It's another bluebird day at Brokeback Mountain Ski Area. The storm has deposited three feet of fresh snow. It's a perfect time to come out.

Our brand new backside terrain is a real hit with skiers. But Jack's Bowls are not for everyone. These steep aspen glades are only suitable for a hardened outdorsman who knows how to cruise the woods safely...

Whether you're just making your first steps on skis or you're an expert skier our mountain has lots to offer. From steep runs off Jack's Notch to the gentle slopes of Little Queen we are first and foremost a family resort.

Poor Heath Ledger.

Posted by Justin at 09:28 AM | Comments (2)

December 25, 2007

Road Trip AZ

Got a new link to Road Trip Arizona.com which is a blog dedicated to the state of Arizona and all of the beauty that it contains. I played football and wrestled for a 2A (now 3A) school, Wickenburg, and during the course of my 4 years wrestling varsity and two years playing varsity football (since I suited for home games as a Freshman and Soph but did not travel), got to see most of the state. My personal favorite places around are Payson, Prescott, Flag, Heber, Pinetop/Show Low, and the rest of the mountain towns that stretch from the Bradshaws to the White Mountains. As most readers of the site know, one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to Jeep, but sadly, I sold another Jeep which makes my third Wrangler that I have owned, loved, then sold in favor of practicality..

RTAZ has an article about snowmaking at Snowbowl and describes a little bit about Sunrise and the hypocrisy of their stand on snowmaking. Not super long or detailed, but he sums it up nicely.

Check out the site if you are interested in more on the debate.

Posted by Justin at 01:13 PM

December 20, 2007

Running the Numbers

I use Beaver Creek as an example, but in reality I am referring to any major megaresort--you know, the ones that the ski magazines drool about. This is more an illustration of the pros and cons of major destination skiing at a high end resort (Vail, Aspen, Beaver Creek, Breck, Keystone, Park City, Whistler, etc.) versus skiing at a smaller resort in the Rockies that costs half as much but also offers less. I am going to run down the resorts that I have skied and compare and contrast them:

Colorado - Wolf Creek, Beaver Creek, Loveland, and A-Basin
Arizona - Snowbowl, Sunrise
Montana - Red Lodge, Big Sky
Utah - Alta, Brian Head

What you find is that once you find a place that you really like, you tend to go there until you find a better deal, get bored, etc. So I am an Alta guy because I just like it so well because of the price, location, skiers only policy, snow quality, and experience that I never drive to the other resorts in the area. Now, I am probably going to have a tough time ever going to Vail because Beaver Creek is so awesome and I have yet to even scratch the surface of all that is there. I am not sure how to compare Beaver Creek to Vail to Keystone to Breck when you couldn't touch all the mountain on any of them in a week or solid skiing.

I am assuming that for folks with the Colorado Pass, they choose their resort based on snowfall numbers, location, or just plain familiarity. So since I haven't skied all the resorts, I leave it open for more comments and info. This is somewhat generic, but there are just too many resorts to know everything about. For the most part though, the mega resorts are that way for a reason--they have a lot to offer and all compare very favorably to the next tier or resorts.

In my mind, there are three categories of ski resorts. Megaresorts. Midsize resorts (and this is a broad category). And places that just plain blow. First, let's talk about the mega resorts. You are going to get a well developed base area, great restaurants, touristy bars, lots of high end shops, and a few high end hotels. Expect lots of folks that are crazy rich and have really nice stuff. Expect people in $1000 jackets riding $2000 worth of gear on groomers who look crazy pimped sipping lattes at the base area. Folks from the East Coast can't get this kind of snow or experience so expect most folks are destination skiers or locals that get really good pass deals or work at the resort. Lots of folks from Europe, etc. Just a different kind of guest. But folks don't come for just the base area. The mountains are massive, but you gotta have the skills to relly enjoy it. And the money to spend because it ain't cheap. EVEN WHEN YOU GET A GREAT DEAL.

The next category is the smaller Rocky Mountain resorts and most East coast resorts. Places like Wolf Creek or Bridger Bowl or Brian Head. Usually these resorts are smaller mountains and do not offer the same level of amenities as the big guys. Not as much vertical. Off the beaten path. Poor airport access. No development rights. Less snowfall. But far lower prices. So then it is a matter of what you are willing to sacrifice. All of these resorts are missing something and it is up to you to decide what you are willing to sacrifice. I am willing to sacrifice shopping, dining, amenities, and nightlife but not snow. I would rather ski powder at a small resort that offers nothing (i.e. Wolf Creek) than ski crap snow at a more developed resort.

I won't get into the third category of places that just plain suck, but they are out there. Usually they have a couple old doubles that some other resort took out 20 years ago.

Beaver Creek was the first place that I didn't have to worry about a sacrifice. I look at the things that I usually am willing to give up. First, I give up base area amenities. I like to stay in town where I can afford it anyway. Then I give up nightlife. Then I give up some of the massive areas and vertical. What I usually don't give up is snow.

I can't get over the $92 price tag. So now it really highlights how good the Colorado Pass is. Season pass at Key, Breck, A-basin, and then the free days at Vail and Beaver Creek. I am just hating that I don't live in Colorado. The Beav and the Colorado resorts are so affordable for locals due to VRI's passes. I can't help but sing their praises. If you want to ski these resorts, you just have to look for deals and I am able to ski Vail and the Beav for the same price as Brian Head.

Posted by Justin at 09:40 AM | Comments (3)

December 12, 2007

Arizona Snowbowl Opens Tomorrow

Apparently the Hopi Gods are pleased with the 9th Circuit ruling because they have allowed the Snow Gods to drop some freshness at Snowbowl in time for Christmas. Snowbowl is sporting a 40" or thereabouts base.

Sunrise is also opening this weekend and my buddies Tim and Erich already sent me an invite that I have to decline due to my trip to Denver. Sunrise also has good snow.

This morning, I awoke at 6:00AM so some thick fog. It still has not cleared. The storm dumped on Phoenix for the last week and a half and may help get some water in our depleted reservoirs. But who cares about a drought. All I care about is that it leaves enough snow to get some skiing in. See, I am selfish like that...

UPDATE: I spoke with several religious leaders including Gov. Mike Huckabee who speaks directly to God (the Christian God, not the Mormon God) who thinks this is a ploy by the Navajo and Hopi Gods to defuse your lawsuit by claiming “see, Snowbowl doesn’t need snowmaking”. Joe Shirley is behind these snow storms. James Dobson has come out in support of the recent snow storm and of snowmaking in general, but cautions that if we don't teach intelligent design, I am no longer allowed to say "Pray for Snow". Instead I am only allowed to say "Think Snow". Oprah is holding a rally today about it. =) I love primary season.

UPDATE: I am getting folks that stop by and think I am hating on the Mormons. Nothing further from the truth. I am pointing out that Mike Huckabee and other religious leaders that support his run for the Presidency are saying some pretty funky stuff about the role of religion, God, and government in making decisions going forward. I am stating flat out that I believe that Joe Shirley and Mike Huckabee are akin when they make government and political decisions about religion first. Huckabee and his backers are the ones talking about who believes in the "real" Jesus. I think the whole thing is kinda funny myself. But this is not my political blog. I will save those comments for somewhere else. check www.sayanythingblog.com and look for Justin B.

Posted by Justin at 09:18 AM | Comments (5)

December 04, 2007

Good News for Arizona Snowbowl - 15-27" of Snow Last Storm

The Arizona Republic reports the good news from Snowbowl:

Chances are good that the recently dropped snow will help the Arizona Snowbowl and Sunrise Park Resort kick off the start of their season before Christmas.

“It's looking, of course, a heck of a lot better than the past couple of years,” said Dave Smith, director of sales and marketing for the Arizona Snowbowl.

The San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff received 14 inches of dense, wet snow at the base of the mountains and 27 inches mid-mountain.

“That's the type of snow you want to get a ski area open,” Smith said. “The snow bonds really well with the other snowflakes. It solidifies the base.”

Good stuff. I need to start calling Dave Smith about comp'ing me some lift tickets for my tireless crusade against the Sierra Club, Save the Peaks, and the various Tribes. =)

Posted by Justin at 11:13 PM

October 28, 2007

Rising Cost of Skiing Article from Tacoma News Tribune

The Tacoma News Tribune has a story about the rising cost of skiing:

According to an NSAA survey, 46 percent of skiers and boarders have a household income of $100,000 or more. Just 17 percent of all U.S. households fall into that same category.

Some people would rather see lift ticket prices increase rather than drop.

“I hear people telling me they want tickets over $60 because it will keep the crowds down,” Kircher said.

At Tahoe’s Squaw Valley USA, a season pass is $1,770. When the resort considered a $299 season pass for those who purchase it a season in advance, regular customers shot down the idea.

“They’re afraid we’d be jammed all season and the mountain would get trashed,” said Squaw Valley spokeswoman Savannah Cowley.

Rachel McClure of Zumiez, a chain of action-sports stores, argued in her master’s thesis at Arizona’s Prescott College that not only is skiing an elitist sport, but also so is hiking.

The subject of her thesis was the need for youth to spend more time in the outdoors.

“A lot of people in urban environments can’t even get to the mountains to ski or mountain bike, let alone ski,” said McClure, who helps run the University of Washington winter sports program.

Freakin' Urban Environmental Hippies. I got an idea, how bout you whine about the rising cost of skiing, then try to shut down the only ski area within 4 hours of the 6th largest city in the country:

Sierra Club is working with the Navajo Nation, Yavapai-Apache Nation, White Mountain Apache Tribe and Dr. Paul Torrence, Professor of Chemistry at Northern Arizona University, to stop the proposed expansion of the Arizona Snow Bowl and to prevent the use of reclaimed water to be sprayed on the ski slopes.

I am crying tears of sorrow for the urban hippie environmentalists that are sending their money to the Sierra Club to fund the Snowbowl lawsuit while Prescott grad Rachel McClure of Zumiez is writing her hard luck story about the rising cost of skiing.

Skiing is expensive precisely because of the Sierra Club. They are funded by rich city folk that want "pristine" outdoors that can only be achieved by keeping costs so high that urban folks cannot afford to go into the outdoors. If people go skiing, it destroys the environment, therefore we want to make it impossible to open new resorts or expand existing ones so that fewer and fewer people can afford to ski.

No hypocrisy here.

Posted by Justin at 09:31 PM | Comments (1)

October 20, 2007

AZ Snowbowl Snowmaking Update

Arizona Snowbowl reports that the 9th Circuit will rehear the case:

The ruling states, “Upon the vote of a majority of nonrecused regular active judges of this court, it is ordered that this case be reheard by the en banc court pursuant to Circuit Rule 35-3. The three-panel opinion shall not be cited as precedent by or to this court or any district court of the Ninth Circuit, except to the extent adopted by the en banc court.”

We interpret this to mean that a majority of judges agreed that there is a problem with the decision reached in March and a review is in order. The Arizona Snowbowl snowmaking plan had been previously approved through a comprehensive EIS process, the Record of Decision issued by the Coconino National Forest Supervisor, the Affirmation of the Record of Decision by the Regional Forester, and the U.S. Federal District Court ruling.

Snowbowl has always believed that recreation has a place on public lands and the Arizona Snowbowl, which celebrates its 70th Anniversary this season, is an excellent example of multiple-use for the benefit of everyone. “We are content to utilize the 1% of the Peaks allocated to Snowbowl and anxiously await the day we can provide more consistent winter recreation”, states J.R. Murray, Snowbowl’s General Manager.

This is a solid opportunity to have the 9th Circuit fix this horrible original ruling before an appeal to the SCOTUS. An appeal that will almost certainly reverse the original 9th Circuit ruling.

Posted by Justin at 01:37 PM

August 08, 2007

Learn about Flagstaff History

This just in from Arizona Snowbowl:

Join us on Friday, August 10, 2007 at Agassiz Lodge for the History of Flagstaff Skiing presented by Jane Jackson, a very gifted volunteer interpreter for the Coconino National Forest. This special event is open to the public and is sure to be a great evening. We especially would like your help to spread the word to your friends, past employees and those that you believe would enjoy learning or sharing the history of our local ski area. We also want to encourage all of you who have photos, articles, or stories about the Arizona Snowbowl to bring them along to share. We want to gather and inventory archives; we will have a scanner available to scan in your old photos.

The evening begins with a FREE Scenic Skyride from 4:00 to 5:00 PM. We will be serving our famous “high altitude BBQ” from 5:00 to 7:00 PM with the presentation of The History of Skiing in Flagstaff at 6:30 PM.

We would like to have many of the past employees from the 1960’s, 70’s, and 80’s and those “old time skiers” attend this event so help us spread the word and share their stories.
Please call (928) 779-1951 x118 with any questions.

I would so totally be there, but young Jacob is playing Pop Warner and they have practice. More on that to come.

Posted by Justin at 02:50 PM

June 25, 2007

The Hits Keep on Coming for the Supremes

Nothing I love more than talking about the "Bong Hits for Jesus", "Faith Based Initiatives", and the Supreme Court... Well, except for talking about skiing. And now with the SCOTUS hopefully to review the case of Arizona Snowbowl, low and behold, I get to talk about some politics on my little ol' ski-blog.

The Roberts-Alito court is discovering their identity:

Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia supported an Alaska high school principal who forced a student to take down a banner proclaiming "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." They also blocked taxpayers from challenging President Bush's faith-based initiatives...

While three of the five decisions Monday arrived on a 5-4 majority, they showcased what has become an ideologically conservative and business-friendly, if narrow, majority.

Since last October, in Roberts' second term as chief justice, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has claimed 11 victories and seen only two defeats on business-related cases.

"We always thought the (Chief Justice William) Rehnquist court was a good forum for business," noted Maureen Mahoney, a lawyer who has argued 18 cases before the court, "but the Roberts court is even better."...

"This is a victory for a ... commonsense approach to environmental regulation," said Damien Schiff, an attorney with the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation, based in Sacramento, Calif.

Even more than in previous years, the court was skeptical of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, considered the nation's most liberal. With Monday's decisions, the Supreme Court has reversed the 9th Circuit on 17 out of 19 opinions issued since October.

OK, commonsense view of environmental regulation. Check. Pro-business environment. Check. Doesn't like the 9th Circuit. Check.

My thoughts--the folks at Snowbowl, the Mayor of Flagstaff, and the pro-skier folks like myself better prepare for a shitstorm from Navajos when they get shot down on appeal. (I thought the term "shitstorm" was appropriate because this case specifically involves making snow from treated wastewater.)

Posted by Justin at 06:09 PM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2007

Snowmaking Article in WSJ (h/t Jon at Steamboat)

The Wall Street Journal has an article on Arizona Snowbowl that presents a great summary of the ruling. This is probably the most balanced and complete piece that I have read:

But in March, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals killed the scheme. The reason: The mountaintops are sacred to the Navajo and 12 other tribes, even though the land is not part of their reservations...

At issue is the interpretation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, which Congress passed in 1993 with almost unanimous support after the Supreme Court upheld a government decision to deny unemployment benefits to two Native Americans fired for using illegal drugs in a religious ceremony. In the past, courts denied that the First Amendment's religious-freedom protections extend to American Indians who challenge federal land-use decisions. RFRA changed that by requiring the government to demonstrate a compelling interest when considering any action that would substantially burden a religious practice. The Snowbowl case is the first to successfully apply the law to a sacred site, says Howard Shanker, the Flagstaff attorney who represented several of the tribes before the court.

It is important to note that the 9th Circuit is delving into new territory here with their ruling. Note that the RFRA has never been interpreted to apply the law to American Indians challenging federal land use decisions. The 9th Circuit went out on a huge limb here. The scary part is that the 9th Circuit set a precedence that other tribes are now using:

Since the March ruling, the Quechan Tribe in Yuma, Ariz., has sued to stop a public land swap for a new oil refinery, the first to be constructed in the U.S. in more than 30 years. The tribe says the land is culturally significant. The ruling could also boost the Snoqualmie Tribe's long-standing bid to block the permit renewal for Puget Sound Energy's 109-year-old hydroelectric power plant at the Snoqualmie Falls, the tribe's most sacred site.

Tribe members hail the 9th Circuit decision as a major victory. But is it really a long lasting victory? The 9th Circuit has some ominous numbers on appeal to the Supreme Court:

From time to time these columns have noted the out-of-step jurisprudence of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Circuit, with headquarters in San Francisco and jurisdiction over nine Western states, is heavy on Democratic appointees: Of its 27 currently active judges, three were appointed by President Carter and 13 by President Clinton. They are frequently overruled by the Supreme Court, but this term may set a record.

So far the Justices have reviewed eight Ninth Circuit decisions, and the Circuit is 0-8. The High Court has reversed four decisions and vacated four more. In Ayers v. Belmontes, a 5-4 Court reinstated a death sentence that the Ninth Circuit had overturned. In U.S. v. Resendiz-Ponce, a criminal procedure case, Justice Antonin Scalia cast a lone dissenting vote in favor of the Circuit's position.

The six other cases were all unanimous. That means -- for those keeping score -- that the cumulative vote against the Ninth Circuit in Supreme Court reviews since October is 67-5. Keep in mind that this is an appellate court that is supposed to heed Supreme Court precedent.

Snowbowl is in the process of appealing the decision now along with the US Department of Agriculture that controls the US Forest Service. In reality, all the 9th Circuit ruling did is delay the snowmaking at Snowbowl for another season or two and further inconvenience the skiers of Arizona.

Posted by Justin at 12:08 PM

June 01, 2007

Snowbowl Press Release

I rec'd the following Press Release today from Reclaim the Peaks--not yet posted on their site:

Flagstaff, AZ - June 1, 2007 - As anticipated, the Dept. of Justice representing the Dept. of Agriculture and U.S. Forest Service as defendants filed their petition on May 31, 2007 for rehearing to the 9th Circuit.

The Arizona Snowbowl, as intervenor in the lawsuit, also submitted a petition for rehearing on May 29, 2007.

The 9th Circuit has discretion over granting a rehearing and the timeframe of such a decision.

The ruling made by a three judge panel, if it stands, will fundamentally alter the law, much for the worse, in two critical areas: under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The panel's RFRA analysis radically limits the government's ability to manage millions of acres of federally-owned land considered sacred by some Native American religious practitioners. The panel's interpretation of RFRA would allow anyone to challenge any federal action that causes them spiritual disquiet, including actions involving the management by the federal government of its own property and force the government to defend the challenged action under strict scrutiny.

The panel's opinion with respect to the NEPA claim substantially undercuts the NEPA process and discourages reliance on the expertise of other regulatory agencies. The Forest Service should be able to rely on regulatory agency rulings in it's analysis during the NEPA process. In this case the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality - the state agency specifically vested with the authority and responsibility to analyze water safety issues - has concluded that reclaimed water is safe under the conditions proposed here.

The panel's decision conflicts with a contrary decision about the same Arizona Snowbowl rendered by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in 1983 that allowed for the expansion of the ski area and improvements consistent with the upgrade proposal.

If the ruling is allowed to stand, all public land use and access could be challenged including hunting, camping, mountain biking, ATV use, and other recreational opportunities.

Arizona Snowbowl has made the determination to continue to invest in securing the future of the ski area rather than fund improvement projects. The enormous environmental approval and legal costs incurred by the ski area currently exceed $4 million dollars. Without snowmaking the ski area will never have a predictable business cycle or make major capital improvements to the 69 year old ski area, and will ultimately go out of business.

Arizona Snowbowl believes that the Forest Service has a responsibility under the multiple use doctrine to ensure that the Snowbowl has the same opportunities as the many of other ski areas that operate on federal land, most of which have snowmaking. The proposed A+ reclaimed water from Flagstaff is of better quality than the natural water sources used by other ski areas that include ponds, lakes, rivers, and mountain streams.

Arizona Snowbowl occupies just 1% of the San Francisco Peaks. The plaintiffs in this legal challenge are unwilling to share the Peaks and want the Snowbowl to close. Yet the Snowbowl has always made accommodations including free chairlift rides for medicine men and tribal members to conduct their ceremonies at the top of the Peaks outside the ski area boundary.

If the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals does not grant a new hearing we are prepared to go to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

Just FYI. We shall see where this ends up, but the USDA and Forest Service are pissed about the ruling too because it means that they have to consult with God, Allah, the Kachinas, Buddha, and possibly David Koresh and Jim Jones before they can make any ruling regarding any Federal Lands now according to the 9th Circuit opinion. Jerry Falwell was unavailable for comment or consultation, but Pat Robertson is trying to reach him for information on Intelligent Design Theory from the other side.

Point is, if you have a religion, you have rights to stop any land use that offends your deity no matter how big or small said deity is. Snow Gods do not count.

Posted by Justin at 07:21 PM | Comments (2)

April 07, 2007

Viewer Mail

I have taken a principled stand against Global Warming Hypocrisy as well as the infringement of Native American Rights upon property owners with the following posts:

Today I rec’d the following e-mail [excerpted for length}:

Without taking up too much of your time, I just wanted to express my sincere regret for your lack of education, and the poor-upbringing your children must be getting from their male role-model if those pictures on the website are in fact them.

As I write this message and look at a picture of a family in front of a trail map sign, I want to specifically state that I do not feel everyone in the US must finish grade school, high school, or go to college to be “educated”. The problem lies when one speaks strongly and they do not have any education about the subject they are speaking to, but ascertain claims as if they were experts.

However, from your telling of the recent Casino situation, global warming, to your details about the Arizona Snowbowl case, its very clear you have never studied anything related to ecological functionality, culture, the history of the US, and specifically Native American History.

Sir, your racism is reminiscent of the civil rights movement in the 60’s. You are one of the micro-reasons racism still exists as your white supremaced attitude leaks through almost every article I’ve read on your blog in the last couple of hours.

I’ll see what my SOAN 630/680 class thinks of this blog in the coming week or two as we may focus a case study on your particular blog as a real world example of neo-colonialism, as well as bounce this off the others at the environmental justice center in Washington that I work with specifically to address such issues as you raise in these articles.

Perhaps we’ll be in contact in the future. Until then I hope your readers distinguish the horrendous hateful tone you express in this blog through the beauty that is skiing, and readers recognize that this perspective is no more than ultra right wing conservative GW Bush type propaganda, hidden under a veil of skiing, creating a neo-colonial platform for white folks to continue to hate Indians so YOU CAN GO SKIING (!?).

Wow. Please read my hate filled racist blog about skiing.

My response:

While you may disagree with my tone, opinion, or writing style, the purpose of my site is to encourage discussion of issues that are important to me and to the sport. And in that respect, I have accomplished my mission. People are reading my site and it is encouraging discussion. While we may disagree on the issues, I appreciate the fact that you believe my opinion is so hateful, racist, neocolonialist or whatever that you would choose to include my writings in your class. I cannot encourage discourse without taking sides and without writing passionately about the issues that I care about. Your note demonstrates that our political system is about making your voice heard, whether that be at the ballot box or in the general discourse. Perhaps you mistake passion with anger, racism, hate, etc., but they are merely rhetorical tools that draw attention to the cause. Without my site, folks would be less informed about the issue. You may not like what I say, but it is precisely the impact of blogging that allows the average citizen to make their voice heard.

I encourage you or your students to post comments in an appropriate manner that attacks my positions without attacking me or my family. I also would appreciate if you make your comments about the issues, not about the upbringing of my children.

Thanks for reading my blog and for your feedback.

This is the response. No debate on the merits of the Snowbowl decision or Global Warming, but rather, to attack me as a Racist, Neocolonialist puppet of the Right Wing Hate-mongers like George W. Bush.

Let's get back to the issues. Like it or hate it, the Snowbowl case is not about Native American history, it is about the San Francisco Peaks and the role of the executive branch of government to administer their lands. Global Warming is about the impact of climate study and the quality of the science on the political system. It is about how we as Americans change our habits or impact our economy to fix a problem that we are not even sure how much is man-made.

Nope, this is really about me and how I raise my kids.

Posted by Justin at 01:54 PM

April 06, 2007

Arizonans Sue Indian Casino to Stop Expansion

Chandler, Arizona neighbors sue Gila River Indian Tribe alleging that the new casino planned just south of several neighborhoods will bring crime and decrease property values. In court, local citizens testified that if a casino was built mere blocks from their homes, it would impact their religious freedom and impact their community. One spokesman compared having a casino in their neighborhood to having a child watching his mother be raped and another claimed that building a casino so near to the homes was a primary cause behind 9-11.

OK, so that isn't gonna fly when Indian Tribes in Arizona want to open Walkways over the Grand Canyon or want to build casinos just blocks from residential neighborhoods. But the story is great in what it says about the reservation system and the power the tribes weild against their neighbors with not even a thought on the lives of the people they displace:

The Gila River Indian Community's plans to build a casino south of Chandler neighborhoods has residents organizing opposition and city and county officials stymied by spotty communication from the tribe.

Chandler Mayor Boyd Dunn said only a few months ago he asked Gila Gov. William Rhodes what was planned for the area south of Hunt Highway around Gilbert Road and was told it would continue as agricultural land. Last month and a few weeks after that conversation, he learned about plans to build a 120,000-square-foot, $60 million casino there.

Patty Kozas, who lives less than a half mile from the casino site, and many of her neighbors have been calling city offices to express worries about the casino's impact on property values and neighborhood safety.

"But we keep running into, 'there's nothing we can do, it's the reservation.' It's very frustrating for us because we live here and they're building something near our houses."

Amazing. They have no requirement to regulate the kinds of buildings or businesses on their land because the Federal Government allows them to completely control it. They can do anything they want on reservation land.

Well, that ain't enough. See, they aren't content to have massive reservations including the entire Northeast corner of Arizona. Other tribes aren't content to simply desecrate the Grand Canyon. They want all land under their control so that they can build casinos wherever they want, but no one else has a damned bit of say. Matter of fact, even having 99% of the land under their control is not enough, they are gonna sue for the other 1%.

And not a damned thing we can do about it. Thanks 9th Circuit.

Posted by Justin at 09:12 PM

March 26, 2007

New Link - Reclaim the Peaks.com

I can't do justice to the entire Snowbowl debate, but I want to direct your attention to my new link--Reclaim the Peaks.com that is run by the Snowbowl Ski Club.

Arizona has two resorts. One owned by the White Mountain Apache tribe, Sunrise, and Arizona Snowbowl. Snowbowl leaves some things to be desired. It is small. The snow coverage can be lacking. Lift lines suck on busy days because the college kids swamp it. But it is one of two resorts serving the two fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country as well as the country's fourth largest county:

WASHINGTON - Maricopa County gained 696,000 residents between 2000 and 2006, the largest numerical increase of the nation's 3,141 counties, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

This increase surpasses the total population of all but 15 U.S. cities.

Pima County added an estimated 21,362 residents from 2005 to 2006 to end up with 946,362 as of July 1. It grew that year at a rate of 2.3 percent, placing it ninth among Arizona counties in growth rate.
Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, has 3.8 million residents, making it the nation's fourth largest county.

"The dramatic increase in Maricopa County's population is the main reason Arizona became the nation's fastest-growing state between 2005 and 2006," said Census Bureau Director Louis Kincannon, referring to the state population estimates released last December. "Maricopa's growth has been remarkable, adding nearly 3 million residents since the 1970 census."

Maricopa County also added the most people - nearly 130,000 - from 2005 to 2006, the bureau reported. It was followed by Harris County, Texas; Riverside County, Calif.; Clark County, Nev.; and Tarrant County, Texas.

Pinal County ranked as the second fastest-growing county in the country from 2005 to 2006 among those with a population of more than 10,000. The county had an estimated 270,000 people and saw a 12.9 percent increase.

But Ski resorts and recreational opportunities do not need to expand just because the state is exploding with growth.

Reclaim the peaks is accepting donations for legal appeals and this issue is about far more than our local resort. This case has major implications for the entire industry as well as for all federal land.

Posted by Justin at 01:45 PM

March 22, 2007

The Larger Impacts of the Snowbowl Ruling

The Snowbowl decision has some wide ranging impacts. This opens an entirely new door to challenge construction projects, roads, permits, and so on. Come up with a religion and find a way to claim that a project substantially burdens you from exercising that religion, and the RFRA affords you the same rights as the gave the tribes--to shut down construction.

I have posted the ruling here in its full text as a .pdf. I won't rehash the entire ruling, but almost the entire thing was based on the Religious Freedom Reform Act of 1993. The conclusion of the ruling is:

In sum, we reverse the district court on two grounds. First, we hold that the Forest Service’s approval of the proposed expansion of the Snowbowl, including the use of treated sewage effluent to make artificial snow, violates RFRA. Second, we hold that the Forest Service’s FEIS does not fulfil its obligations under NEPA because it neither reasonably discusses the risks posed by the possibility of human ingestion of artificial snow made from treated sewage effluent nor articulates why such discussion is unnecessary. We affirm the district court’s grant of summary judgment on Appellants’ remaining four NEPA claims and on their NHPA claim.

Note that the RFRA does not just apply to Native American religions, but to any religion. There is no test on what religions are valid or not. One religion is no more or less valid in the eyes of the government, so our only requirement under the RFRA is to demonstrate that our religion is substantially burdened and the government did not use the least restrictive means and/or did not have a compelling government interest burdening us. This case allows ANY CHURCH OR RELIGION THE SAME RIGHTS AS THE HOPIS AND NAVAJOS have to stop any construction on Federal Land that they deem impacts their religion. And Congress expanded the definition of religion even further to mean just about anything. Quote from the Snowbowl ruling:

Finally, and perhaps most important, Congress expanded the statutory protection for religious exercise in 2000 by amending RFRA’s definition of “exercise of religion.” Under the amended definition — “any exercise of religion, whetheror not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief” — RFRA now protects a broader range of religious conduct than the Supreme Court’s interpretation of “exercise of religion” under the First Amendment.

Did you catch that? "Any exercise of religion, whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief" is protected by the RFRA. Now, I know folks didn't come here to have Justin lecture on Constitutional Law. So I won't. I will let Justice Kennedy from the 1997 Supreme Court case City of Boerne v. Flores which was a Catholic Church that tried to use the RFRA to overturn a denied building permit. Apparently they believed that the law gave them the right to ignore local building ordances because their worship required a larger church and the City of Boerne imposed a substantial burden without considering the least restrictive means as is required under the RFRA by denying their request to renovate a historical landmark.

Respondent and the United States as amicus contend that RFRA is permissible enforcement legislation under. Although Congress certainly can enact legislation enforcing the constitutional right to the free exercise of religion, see, e.g., Cantwell v. Connecticut, its power "to enforce" is only preventive or "remedial," South Carolina v. Katzenbach. The Amendment's design and text are inconsistent with any suggestion that Congress has the power to decree the substance of the Amendment's restrictions on the States. Legislation which alters the Free Exercise Clause's meaning cannot be said to be enforcing the Clause. Congress does not enforce a constitutional right by changing what the right is...

RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress' enforcement power because it contradicts vital principles necessary to maintain separation of powers and the federal state balance. An instructive comparison may be drawn between RFRA and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, provisions of which were upheld in Katzenbach, supra, and subsequent voting rights cases. In contrast to the record of widespread and persisting racial discrimination which confronted Congress and the Judiciary in those cases, RFRA's legislative record lacks examples of any instances of generally applicable laws passed because of religious bigotry in the past 40 years. Rather, the emphasis of the RFRA hearings was on laws like the one at issue that place incidental burdens on religion. It is difficult to maintain that such laws are based on animus or hostility to the burdened religious practices or that they indicate some widespread pattern of religious discrimination in this country. RFRA's most serious shortcoming, however, lies in the fact that it is so out of proportion to a supposed remedial or preventive object that it cannot be understood as responsive to, or designed to prevent, unconstitutional behavior. It appears, instead, to attempt a substantive change in constitutional protections, proscribing state conduct that the Fourteenth Amendment itself does not prohibit. Its sweeping coverage ensures its intrusion at every level of government, displacing laws and prohibiting official actions of almost every description and regardless of subject matter. Its restrictions apply to every government agency and official and to all statutory or other law, whether adopted before or after its enactment. It has no termination date or termination mechanism. Any law is subject to challenge at any time by any individual who claims a substantial burden on his or her free exercise of religion. Such a claim will often be difficult to contest. See Smith, supra, at 887.

Requiring a State to demonstrate a compelling interest and show that it has adopted the least restrictive means of achieving that interest is the most demanding test known to constitutional law... All told, RFRA is a considerable congressional intrusion into the States' traditional prerogatives and general authority to regulate for the health and welfare of their citizens, and is not designed to identify and counteract state laws likely to be unconstitutional because of their treatment of religion.

The following comments are taken from a debate in which the lawyer for the City of Boerne made the case against the RFRA:

If upheld, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will transform our society from one in which churches are expected to be fair-minded members of their respective communities to one in which churches hold the upper hand, whether the issue is zoning, prison regulation, or taxation. RFRA's disdain for the rule of law and for a responsible role for churches is certain to engender less, rather than more, religious tolerance. It is unfortunate that it was drafted in such legalistic terms and therefore is largely inaccessible to the people, who should understand what has hit them.

If you look at the record of the Constitutional Convention, the one word you will see over and over again is "tyranny." The Framers recognized that tyranny is possible when you have great concentrations of power, and they agreed that the way to avoid tyranny was to divide and decentralize power. They did that in the Constitution of the United States.

The three most important structural safeguards in the Constitution are the separation of the powers of the three federal branches; federalism, which separates the powers of the federal government and the states; and the establishment clause, which separates the powers of church and state. RFRA crosses all three boundaries simultaneously...

To understand RFRA you have to understand its scope. The act applies to every law in the United States, whether it was drafted and enacted by a city, a state, a municipality, or the federal government, and whether or not it is a written law. It also applies whether the law was passed before or after RFRA. In other words, this act intends to be the structural equivalent of the Constitution. No other law in this country has that scope. Congress has never before passed a law that has such scope, and RFRA's scope is the prime indicator that what Congress in fact is trying to do is to displace the judiciary's decision with its own policy determination that a different standard ought to be applied in cases involving religious freedom.

These are not my arguments, but those of the City of Boerne and of Justice Kennedy. But according to several commenters, I am a racist for agreeing with them. We are all racists for not bowing down under the weight of the RFRA. We are racists for not putting religion above all other needs of our society.

This case is not about the Hopis or the Navajos. Again, as I have said, they are simply tools in the grand scheme of things. This is about the Sierra Club and their agenda to stop most projects on Federal Land and in that light, this ruling gave them massive new power. Find a religion that somehow has a practice that might be burdened by the project and fund an RFRA lawsuit in their name to stop it. Make the courts decide if there is a compelling state interest and if the least restrictive means test applies. These are impossible burdens and now this allows almost anyone to tie up almost any project in another massive round of lawsuits. Instead of just preparing Environmental Impact Statements, every project will have to go out to every single religion and ask, "Are we going to burden you? Is there a compelling interest for our project? Is there a least restrictive means to accomplish that?"

Posted by Justin at 10:11 AM

March 19, 2007

The Sierra Club and the Environmental Movement's War on Skiing

Today, a reader called me a racist for being a little sensitive to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Snowbowl.

I am truly saddened by the messages written by Justin, the facilitator of this so called ski-blog. The fact that such racism can be freely exchanged in this manner is so indicative of the institutionalized racism of American society. Unfortunately those that bask in the privledge to ski that can't see how privledged we are to connect with the snow and mountains in this way, when so many other social ills are rampant in many peoples day-to-day lives, are missing the soul of this sport.

Recreation to some, a way of life for some folks like myself, I sincerely hope you can stop and check yourself Justin, at some point, and look to the history of Native Americans, how this country was founded, and what this case truly represents in the grand scheme of things.

This isn't about Snowbowl. Snowbowl is a relatively small resort, but this is a step in a much larger direction.

Colorado Wild's Ski Area Citizens Coalition contains the following messages about expansion:

With skier numbers essentially flat nationwide for the past twenty years, any ski area expansion and concomitant marketing for the limited pool of skiers must steal skiers from other ski areas. This in turn pressures other ski areas to also expand or otherwise “improve” their ski area, in short, the “ski area expansion arms race”. In approving one ski area expansion proposal after another, the Forest Service continues to promote more and more expansions – and their concomitant environmental damage – just so other resorts can regain the “Newer, Bigger, Better” marketing edge. Any look at SKI or other popular skiing magazines illustrates the marketing of expansion terrain.

Ninety percent of ski terrain in the western U.S. is on public lands. On the White River National Forest (home Breckenridge and ski area icons Vail, Aspen, and more) between 1985 and 1999, skier visitation increased 28%, yet skier acreage has more than doubled (a 107% increase). The trend has only grown since then with Vail’s Blue Sky Basin, Breckenridge’s Peak 7, and other expansions planned at Copper Mountain, Keystone, and Arapahoe Basin. The Forest Service refuses to assess the nationwide impact of their policy promoting ski area expansions despite virtually no growth in skier visitation nationwide in two decades.

In an interview with Newsweek reporter Daniel Glick (author of the book Powderburn), former Vail Resorts principal Leon Black described how publicly traded ski resorts must attain a 15% return on investment to satisfy investors. With skier numbers nationwide stagnant for two decades, ski areas must either steal skiers from other ski areas to increase revenue, profit from real estate sales, or horizontally integrate by purchasing successful local businesses. The Peak 8 lift is the epitome of the former fueling the ski area arms race, where one ski area gains a marketing edge advertising newer, bigger, and better, only to be followed by the next resort seeking to gain it back.

Hate for the ski resort owners, but love for the sport. Ski Resorts are destroying the sport by expanding and providing better terrain. It isn't just Colorado Wild, but dozens of other groups that turn out to stop any expansion at all. There is no necessary expansion. Lift 8 at Breck--not needed.

The Denver Channel has info on the 1998 fires at Vail:

A federal grand jury in Denver has indicted four people on eight counts of arson for a series of eco-terrorism fires set at the Vail ski area in 1998...

The Two Elks Lodge and other structures on Vail Mountain were burned to the ground on Oct. 19, 1998. Damage was estimated at $12 million...

A group called the Earth Liberation Front, or ELF, claimed responsibility for the fires and said it was done to protect the habit of the lynx. The FBI describes the group as one of the nation's leading domestic terrorist organizations. ELF says harming people is not its intention...

Gerlach and Meyerhoff had both been indicted in Portland, Ore., in December. Gerlach was accused in the toppling of an 80-foot electrical transmission tower in December 1999 and in a fire that year at an Oregon meat company. Meyerhoff was accused of setting fire to a lumber company and a tree farm in the state in 2001.

Overaker was indicted in January on federal charges stemming from fires at two ranger stations, a lumber company office and a meat company in Oregon. She is also accused in the toppling of the transmission tower in 1999.

Rubin was indicted in January in connection with fires at a lumber office in Oregon and wild horse facilities in Wyoming and California.

I am not comparing the Hopis to ELF by any stretch. The Hopis have legitimate concerns about snowmaking on their sacred peaks. Here is the problem though, the Snowbowl snowmaking debate brought out the same kinda nutjobs that set fire to Vail:

Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson got a nasty surprise after attending a candidate's forum where his support of snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl was a point of contention.


Vandals had littered his car with toilet paper, and placed a urine-filled commode on top.

Donaldson took it as an extreme example of opposition to using reclaimed Flagstaff wastewater to make snow on the nearby mountaintop...

After the event, Donaldson said he was confronted by members of a group opposed to the snowmaking plan, including Kelvin Long and another Save the Peaks member, Klee Benally. Both said they have no idea who might have put the toilet on the mayor's car.

"We don't have control, at least I don't have control, over people's actions and ... a lot of people are upset over this issue. It's not surprising that something like this would happen," Benally said.

We have a legal system for a reason. We don't allow terror, threats, or intimidation. So I am a racist for seeing this entire thing as an assault on skiing and on civil discourse in general. I am a racist for watching folks threaten ski resorts because our sport does not conform to their environmental agenda--no matter how radical their agenda is.

Again, the Hopis were a pawn in this game by the Sierra Club and others. The Hopi tribe did not vandalize the mayor's car. We all can assume that it was some 20something student at NAU who wanted to make a "statement" of protest. This is what ELF and other radical environmental groups justify as being necessary to "save the environment". They could give a damn about Native American Oppression and racism. They will stand behind an obscure religion because they understand the fact that this has far larger implications than just at Snowbowl. This provides them with new ammunition to stop ski area expansion and possibly close resorts down when their permits come up. That is their agenda.

Posted by Justin at 04:25 PM

March 13, 2007

To the Editor - Snowbowl Edition

I have submitted the following letter to the editor:

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals took an interesting position on Arizona Snowbowl by ruling that snowmaking on a “sacred mountain” violated the religious freedom of the Hopi tribes. That stands in stark contrast to a decision by the same Court of Appeals regarding the Pledge of Allegiance in 2002 in which they stated:

“The Pledge, as currently codified, is an impermissible government endorsement of religion because it sends a message to unbelievers 'that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.'”

It is an odd that the very practice of saying the Pledge of Allegiance must be struck down, yet we need to stop snowmaking so that we can “protect” the religious freedom of the Hopi tribe. That we must in effect strip the rightful and lawful users of public land of their business that was approved by the appropriate governmental agencies in order to protect the needs of a very small minority of people that claim this site as the birthplace of mankind. In the case of Snowbowl, the courts went one step further and compared making snow using wastewater to using wastewater in Christian baptisms.

Our country is now held hostage by a court system that decides which religions merit protection and which religious institutions have rights. The government now decides which religions it recognizes and which it does not. This runs completely contrary to the purpose of the First Amendment. And now this new First Amendment standard is being applied to effectively strip private business owners of their ability to hold property and expand their business.

While many people disagree on whether snowmaking is good for the environment or whether Arizona Snowbowl is good for Flagstaff, there can be no question that these decisions should be made by elected officials and Forest Service experts, not by unelected and often unresponsive courts. No one religion should have the power to take away the belongings and viability of a business from its owners or our citizens. We should all be free to practice our beliefs, but when my right to religious freedom means stripping someone of their right to “Life, Liberty, and Property” by force of an unelected court system, we step increasingly toward tyranny.

Justin Blackburn
Owner – www.ski-blog.com
Goodyear, Arizona

This is an attack on personal liberty, property rights, and the First Amendment. The 9th Circuit has made a decision on the validity of the Hopi religion as being more important than property rights of Arizona Snowbowl. This very decision is "impermissible government endorsement of religion because it sends a message to unbelievers 'that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.'" I am not Hopi, but this decision takes a government position on the validity of the Hopi faith and makes them favored members of the political community.

The original opinion by the District Court in Arizona stated the following:

Pursuant to RFRA, the Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief that would: (1) declare that the selected alternative, as approved, violated RFRA; and (2) stop the Forest Service and ASR from taking steps in furtherance of the selected alternative. According to the Plaintiffs, the proposed upgrades to the Snowbowl, particularly the use of reclaimed water to make snow, will have negative, irreversible, and devastating effects to their religious, traditional and cultural practices. However, the Defendants and ASR assert that since there is no evidence that the decision will exclude tribal practitioners from the Peaks, no evidence of any diminution of access, no inability to collect medicinal or ceremonial plants and other materials, and no prohibition on holding religious ceremonies anywhere on the Peaks, there is, consequently, no substantial burden on the exercise of the Plaintiffs' religion.

And later added:

In 1979, the Forest Service conducted an extensive process pursuant to the EPA to evaluate proposed upgrades to the Snowbowl, which included the installation of new lifts, trails and facilities. The 1979 Forest Service decision approved 206 acres of skiable terrain and facilities to support a comfortable carrying capacity of 2,825 skiers.

The Forest Service's 1979 decision to approve the Snowbowl upgrades was challenged in the courts by several Indian tribes.

In Wilson v. Block, 708 F.2d 735 (D.C. Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 464 U.S. 956 (1983), the Court upheld the Forest Service's decision and found that the project did not substantially burden the tribes' exercise of religion. In addition, the Court upheld the more general question of whether to permit skiing in the area. Since the Wilson decision, the tribes have continued to use the Peaks for religious purposes.

Again, ask yourself how the 9th Circuit ruling is consistent with 1979's Wilson case in which Snowbowl won this battle once already.

Posted by Justin at 12:38 PM | Comments (10)

March 12, 2007

Like a Turd in a Baptism

Congratulations to the Sierra Club, the WMA tribe, and the Hopis. They succeeded in shutting down snowmaking at Arizona Snowbowl. The Arizona Republic has the article:

The tribes appealed and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court's decision, saying the planned expansion violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

"We are unwilling to hold that authorizing the use of artificial snow at an already functioning commercial ski area in order to expand and improve its facilities, as well as to extend its ski season in dry years, is a governmental interest of the highest order,' " Judge William A. Fletcher wrote for the three-judge panel, which heard arguments in September. He compared the practice to using wastewater in Christian baptisms.

This is going to the Supreme Court and rightly should. This may as well be Kelo all over again. The Courts decide who owns property and how it can be used. They put the needs of a religion over the rights of property owners. They put the tribes ahead of jobs and the economy.

I am going to Snowbowl and I personally am going to piss on the hill, maybe even take a dump. You know that animals occasionally urinate and do number 2 up there too? But using treated wastewater is somehow worse. I guess me taking a crap on the hillside is akin to me pissing in the baptismal waters. Good decision there 9th Circuit.

The celebration plans at the local casino's (Hondah) will be announced shortly.

Posted by Justin at 02:13 PM

February 08, 2007

Arizona Weather from AZCentral.com

The Arizona Republic has this update on conditions. While I disagree that weather in the 50's is good ski weather, some snow coming bodes well.

Ski and snowboard areas near Flagstaff and Greer expect snow showers this weekend.

Arizona Snowbowl currently has packed powder at depths ranging from 11 to 32 inches, Snowbowl officials said. The Agassiz, Hart Prairie and Sunset lifts are all in operation with the Agassiz running only to Midway.

Weather conditions at the Snowbowl this weekend are expected to be great for skiing and snowboarding with partly sunny skies today, Friday and Saturday with lows in the mid-50s.

There is a slight chance of rain Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Snow showers are possible Sunday.

Sunrise Park Resort currently has 40 to 47 inches of packed powder on the slopes. Sunrise Peak and Cyclone Peak are completely open except for Cyclone Ally, on Cyclone Peak, Sunrise officials said. Apache Peak will be closed until the lifts can be repaired.

Partly cloudy skies and highs in the low 50s are expected today, Friday and Saturday, around Sunrise with a slight chance of snow showers Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

While conditions are good in most areas of the ski resorts, some areas have only thin layers of snow and officials urge skiers and snowboarders to be careful of obstacles.

Posted by Justin at 01:30 PM

January 17, 2007

Snowbowl Opens Saturday

From the Arizona Snowbowl website:

Anticipating a forecasted storm this weekend Arizona Snowbowl will begin the 2006-07 season at 9 AM this Saturday, January 20, 2007. The Hart Prairie beginner area and the Sunset intermediate terrain will be open along with Hart Prairie Lodge, providing restaurant, equipment rental, ski school, ski patrol and retail services. Additional lifts and trails will open as additional snow allows. Snowbowl is accepting applications for dozens of openings ranging from equipment rental, food & beverage, Ski & Ride School, lift attendants, maintenance and many other departments.

“We are anxious to get this season going. The pent up demand is overwhelming as every skier and snowboarder in Arizona is ready to get on the slopes”, states Snowbowl’s General Manager, JR Murray.

He continues, “The most recent snowfall on January 13, was light and fluffy but we were able to get our grooming equipment on the snow quickly and pack it down. Allowing it to “set up” with cold temperatures has improved the snow pack on the trails. Any additional snow at this point will only make the conditions better.”

The Arizona Snowbowl is one of last ski areas to open this season but this is because most of the others ski resorts have snowmaking. This is a good example of why snowmaking is so critical to a ski area because the base of snow would have been established with manmade snow allowing us to open in early December. Over thirty inches of snow has fallen since our anticipated opening date that would have covered up the manmade snow. If this is typical, waiting until January for snow, then the manmade snow is really skied on for the first several weeks of the ski season before it is covered by natural snow. This year Snowbowl would have used only a fraction of the water available to them to make snow. The big difference is the fact that manmade snow allows a resort open each year on a predictable basis.

Not sure who to thank--the Hopi Gods or the Snow Gods. I wonder if they hang out together. I hear the Hopi Gods may be responsible for 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina according to Joe Shirley who is fighting to stop snowmaking. I am always worried about offending powerful deities that can cause worldwide calamities or worse yet, destroy the financial viability of a ski resort. I hope the resort opening is a sign that the Hopi Gods are going to hold off on any Hurricanes, Tsunamis, or Terrorist attacks for a while.

Posted by Justin at 09:34 AM | Comments (1)

January 01, 2007

Congratulations are in Order for the WMA, Hopis, and Sierra Club

The Arizona Republic has an article about the state of affairs at Snowbowl:

For the seventh time in the past decade, the nearby Arizona Snowbowl wasn't open for that all-important week between Christmas and New Year's Day, normally accounting for one-third of a ski area's business for the year.

In six of the past eight years, the ski season hasn't been long enough to attract even 100,000 skiers, while the historic average in the late 1990s had been 125,000 skiers annually.

In three of those seasons, Snowbowl had 35,000 skiers or fewer. The 2001-02 season was only four days long.

But the hits just keep on coming for Sunrise, the Hopi Tribe, and the Sierra Club:

In a normal snow year, the Snowbowl has about a $10.5 million direct impact on Flagstaff's economy and $20 million indirect impact, according to studies by the Snowbowl and Flagstaff consultants. About 70 percent of the area's skiers come from outside Flagstaff, most from the Valley.

A recent study by Gary Vallen Hospitality Consultants of Flagstaff concluded that the Snowbowl would attract a minimum of 200,000 skiers each season if it had snowmaking capacity that could guarantee a consistent season from Thanksgiving to April 1. Snowmaking ability also would add an average of $6.3 million annually to the local economy, according to the Vallen study.

But ain't Karma a bitch for the Apaches and Snowbowl:

Ski area manager Bill London said that Sunrise hasn't been able to get loans of about $11 million for new snowmaking equipment and to acquire rights for a larger reservoir of water.

London said that Sunrise has had seasons in the past where it has had as many as 140,000 skiers but still finished in the red.

"The way it is now, our snowmaking equipment only covers about 10 percent of our total ski area terrain, so that's having a limited impact on our operations," London said. "If we had new equipment, we would be able to cover about 35 percent of our area with artificial snow."

So snowmaking is essential to Sunrise's operation, but they cannot get anyone to give them a loan. They are in the red. Guess the WMA tribe will have to use some of the money that they steal from Blue Haired old grandmas to keep their area afloat. Funny, but Snowbowl can afford snowmaking equipment and doesn't have the deep casino pockets to keep them in business. They have to have snowmaking or they cannot keep floating the ski area with an outside financial source. It is a bad investment to keep pumping money into a business that cannot be expected to be profitable.

Hmmm. I had this idea for Sunrise. Try this on for size--Snowbowl gets as many as 125,000 skier visits, 70% of which are from Phoenix. If Sunrise can get Snowbowl to close, they would capture at least a large portion of those skier visits and probably be profitable, even in a bad year. If estimates are correct, that 125,000 number may be more like 200,000. Then Sunrise could show a large enough profit to get their loan to make more snow and attract even more skier visits. Leading to even more profits. Wow. That Bachelor's Degree in Business from ASU finally pays off. Or maybe not. Even the WMA tribe is smart enough to come up with this business plan.

Well, news for Sunrise--I ain't gonna be a skier visit ever again or deal with their rude WMA tribe members that work the resort, stay in their trashy hotel, or spend money at their casinos. They are trying to hose Snowbowl by using some lame "Religious Freedom" excuse to shut down snowmaking on the precious San Francisco Peaks. Instead of pumping WMA tribe money into fixing their 30 year old facilities and improving conditions, they instead spend it on legal challenges to shut down their competition.

And who gets screwed in this whole deal? Why, the people of Phoenix, Tucson, and so forth that would rather shave two hours each way off of their drive and save the gas money they would spend going to Sunrise by going to Flag which is much closer. Better yet, Snowbowl has a more friendly and helpful staff made up mostly of college kids that actually do ski or ride unlike the WMA tribe members that run the resort at Sunrise. They understand skiing and care about the sport unlike the tribe at Sunrise, most of whom are simply there because in the winter they cannot start fires to provide work like they did in 2002 by starting the Rodeo-Chediski fires:

The Rodeo-Chediski fire was a wildfire that burned in east-central Arizona beginning on June 18, 2002, and was not controlled until July 7. It was the worst forest fire in Arizona to date, consuming 467,066 acres (1,890.15 km²) of woodland. Several local communities, including Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside, and Heber-Overgaard, were threatened and had to be evacuated.

Initially there were two separate fires. The first fire, the Rodeo fire, was reported on the afternoon of June 18 near the Rodeo Fairgrounds on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. An arsonist was arrested on June 29 and was later charged. By early evening, despite the efforts of firecrews, around 1,200 acres (5 km²) were ablaze. Increasing wind speeds fed the fire to over 2,000 acres (8 km²) by the following morning, and when wind speeds increased to around 25 mph (40 km/h) the fire grew rapidly — increasing fourfold over the next three hours.

The arsonist, who received a 10-year prison sentence in March 2004, was Leonard Gregg, a Cibecue resident who worked as a seasonal firefighter for the tribal fire department. He told investigators he had set two fires that morning (the first was quickly put out) in hopes of getting hired by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs for a quick-response fire crew. Gregg had previously worked as a BIA fire crew member, and was indeed among the first to be called in to fight the Rodeo Fire.

There is plenty of money and people for everyone. The WMA Tribe does not need to burn my state down to find work. Phoenix is the sixth largest metropolitan area in the country. Counting Tucson and Phoenix, that is almost 4.5M people. But the Hopis, Sierra Club, and WMA tribe want us to ski at Sunrise or not ski at all. They are not our friends. They don't care about skiers at Sunrise. Sure, Sunrise has some good folks from Eagar and Pinetop, etc., that work at the resort, but the place is owned and ultimately run by the WMA tribe. Their motivations are not about running a great ski resort, but rather about finding another way to take money from the White Folks. Casinos just aren't enough. So they have thrown their hat in the ring with the Sierra Club that was equally to blame for the fires in 2002. They sure care about Arizona, don't they? They sure care about skiers too.

Posted by Justin at 01:05 PM

December 25, 2006

Interesting Info on Aspen's Green Program

I wrote briefly about Vail and Aspen using Wind Credits to offset their power usage in September. I got an e-mail from Neal Dikeman from Cleantech Blog about an entry he had posted after visiting Aspen:

Then while taking a brief time out from skiing (I am not actually very good) I went in to drink coffee in the sunny lodge of the Sundeck Restaurant on Aspen Mountain. The first thing you notice walking through the front door (besides the massage chair, which I really needed after a day of skiing) is the plaque which bills the Sundeck as one of the first 10 LEEDs buildings in America. Details of the Sundeck Restaurant project here. The total cost was $9.8 mm, or an eye-popping $425/square foot (I assume driven partly by LEEDs requirements, and partly by the top of a ski resort location!). But the part I liked the most was the re-use of 86% of the materials from the previous Sundeck building. Because at the end of the day, despite all the advances in cleantech - the real answer to our energy issues is still the same - Reduce, Recycle, Reuse.

Aspen also fuels its snowcats with biodiesel, from Blue Sun Biodiesel. The best part is they actually publish on their website an interesting description of the impact of the biodiesel use: "In the winter of 2002, ASC experimented with an 80% diesel/20% biodiesel blend. Mechanics noticed that the fuel, which makes snowcat exhaust smell like french fries, radically reduced black tailpipe smoke and that the snowcats ran smoother, a result of biodiesel’s higher lubricity, a quality that also extends the life of mechanical components. Based on our testing, ASC has now switched its entire fleet of snowcats to biodiesel. The cost is about 20 cents more per gallon, a small cost to pay for benefits that include hydrocarbon emissions reductions of 20% and CO and particulate reductions of 10%. The one drawback is that biodiesel typically increases NOx emissions by 2%."

I really dig the move to biodiesel, but have a major problem as I wrote about in the previous article with Aspen paying their ticket clerks $9.25 an hour, yet being willing to pay that extra $.20 a gallon for biodiesel. Do the math on $9.25 an hour times 40 hours per week ($370 less taxes) times 4 weeks in a month ($1480 a month). And also keep in mind that most of these jobs are only part-time. It is a mixed bag for me. I am always one to say that before you worry about global issues, have your own house in order. That means pay your workers enough and have affordable housing for them before you save the world. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't minimize your impact on our natural resources. It just means that I am not going to get all ga ga about being environmentally conscious until wages and housing are also addressed. But putting that aside for a moment, it is awesome that Aspen is reusing their old materials and using biodiesel and wind credits.

It is tough for me to be an "environmentalist" or think like the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club opposes snowmaking on the San Francisco Peaks at Snowbowl because it uses reclaimed water in Flagstaff, yet they also opposed Aspen using water from Snowmass Creek to make snow at Aspen. The environmental movement doesn't want skiing to exist (see AZ Snowbowl) or wants to stop things like snowmaking that allow the industry to exist. They have opposed expansion projects at Snowbasin and most other projects including the new Village at Wolf Creek that Colorado Wild and the Sierra Club oppose. In addition, the Sierra Club opposes nuclear power as an alternative to coal based power, saying, "Switching from dirty coal plants to dangerous nuclear power is like giving up smoking cigarettes and taking up crack." But that does not make them wrong about things like reuse and recycling. It does not make biodiesel less of a great idea. It does not make wind power a bad idea either. And Aspen doing these things is good for all of us.

I hope that the ski industry is able to adopt policies that allow for moderate expansion, upgrades, improvements, and growth so that we can get more people to enjoy the sport I love and enjoy the beauty of the Rocky Mountains. The biggest problem in skiing that I see is that due to the scarcity of resources and the high cost, the sport is unattainable for anyone but the upper middle class and above. Simple supply and demand dictates that if there are more lifts and more areas and more space, prices would be lower resulting in more skier visits. But this goes contrary to the exclusionist image that the industry wants. They want the sport to be more expensive and fewer people to be able to do it. I don't have all the answers, but I know this, the people working at resorts make next to nothing and your average middle class American cannot afford to ski because of the high prices, part of which results from lawsuits like the one at Arizona Snowbowl funded in part by the Sierra Club. Going green is great, but not at the cost of worker wages and housing and not at the cost of making the sport even more exclusionary with higher and higher prices.

Posted by Justin at 09:20 PM | Comments (2)

December 19, 2006

New Snow in Flag, but no Base to Open With

New Snow in Flag, but no base to open with according to the AZ Republic:

Snow predictions ranged from 2 to 4 inches in lower elevations to 4 to 8 inches above 6,000 feet and 5 to 10 inches in the White Mountains.

Although the storm is carrying plenty of cold air, not enough snow is likely to fall on the San Francisco Peaks, north of Flagstaff, to allow Arizona Snowbowl to open, said David Smith, publicist for the ski resort.

"We're thinking we might get a foot of snow, but we need a packed base of 2 to 3 feet," he said. "That takes a couple of big storms. We've been looking forward to a big one since October."

The benefits of Man Made Snow are incredible for making a stable base and preparing a resort for the natural stuff. Here is how it works:

1. Resorts start snowmaking as soon as night time temps drop into the low 20's and high 10's.
2. Resorts build a stable base.
3. Resorts begin getting natural snow and as soon as it arrives, it is compacted and the base is completed.
4. As more natural snow arrives, more of the resort opens.

Snowmaking is critical for building the base. It provides stability and the ability to open at least part of the mountain as soon as the natural stuff starts falling.

Here is the economic reality--Snowbowl is missing the Christmas period because of lack of a base and because of lack of snowmaking. They cannot open during the busiest time of the year most of the time. Christmas is when most resorts go into the black, and without a good Christmas, most resorts lose money for the year.

Yep, expect a late opening for Flag, yet Sunrise who has snowmaking should be open for the Christmas rush. The WMA tribe will get folks to stop at Hondah for some gambling and stay at local hotels in Pinetop or at the resort's hotels. And Flag will miss out on folks coming up the hill for skiing. Kids that go to NAU will not have jobs over the holidays. Ski shops will not sell skis. And if it continues long enough, Dave Smith at Snowbowl will be out of a job just like the kids that run the lifts and ski school because the ski area will stop bleeding and finally shut down.

Enjoy the Peaks this winter and enjoy the warm feeling that the Hopi Gods give people over the holiday season. Every kid in school in Phoenix that wants to go to Flag for some skiing over the winter break can thank the Hopi Gods for stealing their Christmas like Jim Carey in the Grinch. They don't want us there. They have not since their lawsuit over their religious freedom in 1979. They want our kids to stay home because the San Francisco Peaks are where their Gods created all life on Earth.

If I tried to shut down a business because Jesus told me to, people would flip. You cannot even put up a Christmas tree anymore. Hopis and their Gods can shut down any business they want, yet a display of the Ten Commandments is not allowed. You cannot even call the school break "Christmas Break", it is Winter Break. Yet the Hopi Gods are given opportunity after opportunity to prevail in Lawsuits by the same 9th Circuit that wants to eliminate all other religious displays.

I hope Snowbowl puts up a massive Christmas Tree and huge Menorah right at the top of the peak since Christians and Jews should have the same right to enjoy their religious freedom at the Peaks that the Hopis do since it is public land. But alas, Snowbowl would be crucified over something like that. Displaying Christian Symbols or celebrating the Christian faith over Christmas would violate the Hopis' religious freedom. Christians don't cover the mayor's car with urine and toilet paper when the city of Flagstaff doesn't display the Ten Commandments or put up a Nativity Scene, yet the opponents to Snowmaking and the Hopis do.

That my friends is Religious Freedom right there. I hope the Sierra Club supports Christians and Jews with exercising their religious freedom on public land they way they support the Hopis. Because that is what the Holiday Season is all about. Religious freedom--but only for religions that want ski resorts shut down.

Posted by Justin at 12:42 PM

December 12, 2006

Snowbowl Letter Regarding Snowmaking Posted to their Site

Arizona Snowbowl General Manager posted a letter about the snowmaking controversy. It says in part:

The opposition groups are determined to delay us as long as the process allows, or to run us out of business. We hear them say that the ski area is acceptable in its current form. However, without change and predictability the ski area cannot be successful and they know that. Their actions and protests are hypocritical. If we attempted to slander, misuse the facts, and challenge their daily lives we would be labeled anti-Native American and persecuted in the media. Yet they not only get away with it, they continue to receive front page media attention!!

I believe we will succeed. We may have to wait the process out. We retain hope that during the summer of 2007 we will be constructing the snowmaking system and are ready for the 07-08 season. As you know we await the ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Unfortunately, the court has no deadline. Depending on the outcome we will move forward with our plans or defend yet another appeal. There is really no benefit for us to meet the local opposition head on with rhetoric or rallies as it will not influence the Court.

Read the letter. Points I have been making since last year. Skiing is a healthy active outdoor activity. It promotes tourism for communities that in some cases (see Alta, Telluride, etc.) would be ghost towns without the advent of their resorts. Flag is not one of those towns, but benefits greatly from having winter recreation.

The local (and in some cases distant) tribes want Snowbowl out of business. Some of them want it because Snowbowl directly competes with their own resort (Sunrise) and some want it because they claim the mountain is sacred. The tribed tried in the 70's to sue the area out of business and were slapped down by the Supreme Court. Now they claim they don't have a problem with the resort as it currently exists. It is a lie. Plain and simple.

The tribes are willing to lie, cheat, and steal to put Snowbowl out of business. They have gone so far as placing a urine filled commode and toilet paper on the mayor of Flagstaff's car outside a forum in which he expressed support for the expansion.

Because of "white guilt" as some call it, the local tribes are free to express outwardly racist sentiments, damage property, spread lies, and do anything that they can to win this battle. Instead of trusting in the judicial process, they have not only engaged in obstructionist lawsuits that so far have consistently been determined to lack merit, but have engaged in a deceitful war in the media. On top of it, they have enlisted the help of environmental groups and the White Mountain Apache tribe that have their own agenda to shut the resort down. None of them take into account the hundreds of thousands of skier visits during a good snow year or the population in Phoenix that uses the area as the only opportunity for winter sports within reasonable driving distance of Phoenix.

The prolonged legal battle continues to take away my opportunity to ski with my family two hours from my home and forces me to drive an extra ten hours round trip to Brian Head or four hours to Sunrise. How is my driving an extra 600 miles round trip better for the environment than using water that would be discharged into local rivers anyway to make snow and ensure that the ski area remains viable? But as long as I drive to the White Mountain Apache's reservation and Sunrise, that extra 400 miles of driving does not impact the environment because it means I am spending money at their Casino ski area. Yeah, that is good environmental policy. Smart move Sierra Club.

Posted by Justin at 03:18 PM | Comments (4)

October 11, 2006

Wolf Creek gets 22" During Latest Storm

Wolf Creek has already received 42" of snow so far this year and got another 22" the last couple of days.

Today is my birthday and for my birthday, it appears that both Brian Head and Wolf Creek got some snow. But the best part is the news from Arizona Snowbowl:

Ski fans will rejoice to know that while it will be a sunny day in the Valley today, a light dusting of snow last night added to the about 2 inches of snow that fell Sunday night and Monday morning at higher elevations outside Flagstaff. The Arizona Snowbowl ski area reports snow at about the 9,500 foot level.

Snowbowl Marketing Director Dave Smith said, "Hopes are high here among all of us that this snow is the first sign that we're going to have a great season. It would be terrific if we could be open by Thanksgiving."

Let us hope.

Posted by Justin at 09:52 AM | Comments (1)

October 03, 2006

Arizona Growth Projections and Why Snowbowl Needs Snowmaking

This article in the Arizona Republic describes the rapid population growth that is expected in Arizona in the next 30 years:

A University of Arizona economic researcher pulled out his crystal ball - and some U.S. Census data - and looked into Arizona's future. He says he saw a lot - a lot of growth involving a lot of people.

Arizona's population will double in the next 30 years, with the Phoenix area essentially merging with metro Tucson to become one urbanized complex, with significant development from as far as Sierra Vista in southeastern Arizona to Kingman in the northwest, said researcher Marshall Vest.

The state will add roughly 8.5 million residents by 2036, adding to the current 6.2 million and reaching 14.6 million, said Vest, director of the Business Research Center of the Eller College of Management.

Metro Phoenix now has 4 million people and will rise to 9.7 million by 2036, while the Tucson area's current population of just under 1 million should hit 1.7 million, Vest wrote in the October issue of Arizona's Economy, published by the center.

Consider that if the sport of skiing has a future, places like Arizona represent need to provide for the growth of the industry. Snowbowl is less than two hours from a metropolitan area of almost 4 Million people that will soon be almost 10 Million. Phoenix is becoming an increasingly affluent population of baby boomers that are coming here to retire. But retirement means something else to baby boomers. As the life expectancy increases and people stay healthier longer, the industry needs to continue to retain these core folks.

Snowbowl has some real potential if they can add snowmaking. The area provides a much needed recreational opportunity for the state of Arizona.

No matter what anyone in Flagstaff wants, these people are coming. Flag and other cities will not remain the same as they are today, nor should they. Growth provides opportunity and helps sustain our economy. And these projections are not just true for Arizona, but for Nevada as well. This makes Brian Head an increasingly attractive destination and justifies the need for expansion of new terrain.

The Southwest is growing for a number of reasons, but a major one is that you can escape the brutal winters, yet still have mountains to vacation to for skiing in the winter and for cool temperatures in the summer.

Posted by Justin at 04:08 AM

September 18, 2006

Put Up or Shut Up Time for the Hopi Gods

Last week I posted the following:

The folks with the Hopi Tribe need to put the pipe down.

Hopi attorney Scott Canty said it is up to the deities, not man, to make snow.

"To usurp their authority is a crime, an insult," he said. "It desecrates the entire mountain that the Hopi believe is a living entity."

The tribes say Snowbowl is an affront to their religion and its existence may have caused the Sept. 11 attacks and other universal calamities. The resort, one of two in the state, might go out of business because of a lack of snowfall.

You know, I was just thinking...

If the Hopi Gods are powerful enough that they can cause 9-11, why didn't they pony up 400" of snow last year so that the resort could stay open for more than two weeks? Why don't they ensure a consistent snowfall for Snowbowl so that snowmaking is unnecessary?

The idea of angry and all powerful Gods that would cause 9-11 over skiing at a resort, yet have the power to simply provide natural snow and keep the Snowbowl folks from usurping his authority bothers me. What is up with the Hopi Gods?

I am asking the Hopis to pray to their Gods that El Nino continues, Snowbowl never has a season without snow again, and that snowmaking is completely unnecessary because of the massive power and influence of the Gods of the Hopis. If their Gods pony up with the snow, I will change my stance on the need for snowmaking at the resort and may actually renounce all versions of my faith and begin worshipping the divine creator that gave birth to all civilization at the San Francisco Peaks. I call on all skiers to make the same commitment to the Hopi Gods.

Posted by Justin at 12:30 PM

September 14, 2006

The Hopi Tribe Goes All Jerry Falwell Over Arizona Snowbowl

The folks with the Hopi Tribe need to put the pipe down.

Hopi attorney Scott Canty said it is up to the deities, not man, to make snow.

"To usurp their authority is a crime, an insult," he said. "It desecrates the entire mountain that the Hopi believe is a living entity."

The tribes say Snowbowl is an affront to their religion and its existence may have caused the Sept. 11 attacks and other universal calamities. The resort, one of two in the state, might go out of business because of a lack of snowfall.

I seem to remember 9-11 being caused by 19 hijackers with knives crashing jets into buildings and farm ground. Even if you are a nutjob conspiracy theorist, 9-11 was at worst caused by George Bush. I never thought it was caused by skiing. I am declaring a skiing jihad. From this point forward, I will attempt to cause calamity across the globe by offending the deities of the Hopi tribe by desecrating their sacred land with my two planks. Gotta say, me thinks that the 9-11 hijackers were not real concerned with the Hopi Gods when they were chanting Allah Akbar and crashing planes into buildings. But that is just me.

How do they expect us to take them seriously when they throw crap like this out there? This is a serious lawsuit and it is just retarded to throw out the rhetoric that they are using. They ought to be ashamed. But if their Gods are behind 9-11, we are all in trouble. I think their Gods should probably be more upset about the fact that 50% of Arizona Indians have diabetes, their only real source of income for the reservations is casinos, there are massive alcohol problems among the tribes, and the Indians traded away vast amounts of their deity's land for trinkets and beads. As I said, if the worst that their God has done to punish us for our disobedience in those matters was 9-11, I think we are safe to make snow there.

Update: Sorry, for those of you who missed the Jerry Falwell reference, he made the following statement about 9-11 two days after the attacks:

On the broadcast of the Christian television program "The 700 Club," Falwell made the following statement:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

Falwell, pastor of the 22,000-member Thomas Road Baptist Church, viewed the attacks as God's judgment on America for "throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked."

I consider these kind of comments to represent the most reprehensible kind of rhetoric possible. To use a national tragedy to advance ones own religious or political views is just sickening. Every action that we take that someone does not agree with now affects some other person's "GODS". If the Hopi Gods are that upset with the ski industry, maybe we should all give up skiing to appease them. I hate to think that I might personally be responsible for 9-11 because I have never used a box cutter to hijack an airplane. And if I offended anyone by posting Jerry Falwell's statements (for which he later appologized), please just explain the difference between what he said and what the Hopis said. At least Falwell appologized for his outrageous statements. No one is asking the Hopis to.

Posted by Justin at 11:30 PM | Comments (2)

June 08, 2006

How to Support Democracy and the Judicial Process--Snowbowl Edition

Is this what the folks at Save the Peaks and the Navajo Nation are all about?

Flagstaff Mayor Joe Donaldson got a nasty surprise after attending a candidate's forum where his support of snowmaking at the Arizona Snowbowl was a point of contention.

Vandals had littered his car with toilet paper, and placed a urine-filled commode on top.

Donaldson took it as an extreme example of opposition to using reclaimed Flagstaff wastewater to make snow on the nearby mountaintop.

He's a backer of the plan, and it wasn't popular with many in the audience at the Wednesday evening forum sponsored by Native Americans for Community Action.

So sue in the courts and make a case. When you do not win and while appeals are still pending and before a single shovel of dirt has been turned, start threatening and harassing elected officials that disagree with your point of view.

Boy, for a group preaching about how the rest of us should show racial tolerance and respect the tribes and their viewpoint, it seems that the vandals don't respect the rights of politicians to have differing opinions on the matter.

Let's ask Joe Shirley if having urine, toilet paper, and a commode placed on your car is like "a mother being raped in front of her child" or perhaps it is just like genocide. Does Joe Shirley support vandalism of property being done in the name of his cause?

Posted by Justin at 09:27 PM

May 04, 2006

Over the Top Rhetoric

The last two days, I probably went over the top. I attacked the WMA Tribe, the Navajo Tribe's President, and the Sierra Club with their own words and actions. And I pointed out the hypocrisy of the comparisons they are making to inflame the lingering hatred and racial tension problems we have.

Let me say that if Skiing is anything, it is not a way of committing genocide. Skiing is not blankets with smallpox. Skiing is the sport that I love. Skiing is one of my own spiritual reconnections with nature. Skiing is how I reconnect with my father and my sons. Skiing is how I get out of the cubicle and the big city and the smog and the job and the stress and find my inner peace. I build relationships with friends and family on the slopes. It is a huge part of what defines me.

The folks involved in this lawsuit, despite the lawsuit focusing on snowmaking only, really want to shut down skiing completely in Flag. If you are a skier or boarder, they want to stop your sport for their own agenda. Each has a different agenda, but they are hidden agendas behind the mask of "religious freedom" and "protecting the sacred peaks".

I have an agenda too. It is to have a consistent snowbase at a resort less than two and a half hours from my home. To have additional lift capacity so that I can enjoy the experience, not the lines. To ensure that 4M people can enjoy this recreational activity.

To equate my agenda to rape, genocide, flushing a Koran, and the variety of other things Joe Shirley and by extension since he is the lawsuit's primary spokesman, the Sierra Club and WMA Tribe, are saying is wrong. And to make continued hate filled statements about simple businessmen who run and operate the resort, the Forest Service that did the best they could to make a fair decision, and the US Government who ultimately will decide this in the courts is wrong.

I have gotten to interview and correspond with Dave Smith who is Snowbowl's spokesman to get his comments. He is a good man. The owners are good men. They do not have a hidden genocidal agenda. They do not hate the environment or hate the Navajos. They just have a different perspective.

I want anyone and everyone that reads my site to think about how each side has approached this difficult controversy. One side has approached it with class and dignity. The other has pulled out all the stops and equated their opposition with genocide and rapists. They have smeared. And it is because every time they have gotten to a court of law, they have lost. They know they have a losing cause. But they continue to preach hatred and intolerance and prolong lawsuits using Casino money and money of the donors that send it to the Sierra Club. And they are wasting Snowbowl's time and money to the tune of several years and over $3M.

I appeal to all of you to call this situation what it is and call the people who are prolonging it for what they are. If you disagree with the Snowbowl decision, fine, but don't hinge your hopes to stopping it to "genocide" and "rape". Accept your losses in Federal Court. Accept that we have a system to adjudicate these situations. And realize that other people have a different view and different wants and desires for the Peaks. Sacred or not, they have value to me and the other skiers and people that enjoy them too.

Posted by Justin at 11:19 AM

May 03, 2006

The Sierra Club's Snowbowl Hypocrisy--Do They Support Rape and Genocide?

Yesterday, I wrote that I am a proponent of rape and genocide according to Joe Shirley, Jr., the President of the Navajo Nation who used this rhetoric to fight against a ski resort expansion at Snowbowl in Arizona. I also wrote about the uneasy coalition of entities that formed to fight the resort. I want to compare and contrast Joe Shirley's statements to these and see how consistent the Sierra Club is with their stands in opposition to rape and genocide. Joe Shirley invoked the Snowbowl is like the War in Iraq analogy with this statement, so let's finish the analogy and look at the hypocrisy:

Shirley and other Native American leaders from cultures as diverse as the Navajos, Hopis and the various Pai tribes have been united on at least one thing: Not only should there not be snowmaking and other changes at the ski area, they would like to see the ski area go away. They say the peaks should return to their natural state in keeping with their federal wilderness designation.

"To Native Americans, desecrating the San Francisco Peaks with wastewater is like flushing the Koran down the toilet. . . . The federal government is ignoring the pleas and wishes of the Native people," Shirley said.

Let's add these other quotes to give context:

Using reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks' Snowbowl amounts to desecration of a sacred Holy site of the Navajos, said Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. By allowing this desecration "the United States of America will commit genocide." ... Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. told a U.S. District Court on Wednesday that proposed development of the sacred Dook'o'sliid would be like having a child witness the brutal violation of its mother, leaving it emotionally and psychologically scared forever. According to Communications Director George Hardeen, the President testified, "It's like someone coming in and violating and raping our mother. It hurts me. She's already got scars."

In 2000, the United Nations Published the following report on Iraq. The information contained was provided and confirmed by Amnesty International regarding "rape":

  • Human rights organizations and opposition groups continued to receive reports of women who suffered from severe psychological trauma after being raped by Iraqi personnel while in custody.
  • Former Mukhabarat member Khalid Al-Janabi reported that a Mukhabarat unit, the Technical Operations Directorate, used rape and sexual assault in a systematic and institutionalized manner for political purposes. The unit reportedly also videotaped the rape of female relatives of suspected oppositionists and used the videotapes for blackmail purposes and to ensure their future cooperation.
  • In June 2000, a former Iraqi general reportedly received a videotape of security forces raping a female family member. He subsequently received a telephone call from an intelligence agent who stated that another female relative was being held and warned him to stop speaking out against the Iraqi Government.
  • Iraqi security forces allegedly raped women who were captured during the Anfal Campaign and during the occupation of Kuwait.
  • Iraqi security agents reportedly decapitated numerous women and men in front of their family members. According to Amnesty International, the victims’ heads were displayed in front of their homes for several days.

How about Genocide?

  • Former UN Human Rights Special Rapporteur Max Van der Stoel’s report in April 1998 stated that Iraq had executed at least 1,500 people during the previous year for political reasons.
  • Iraq has conducted a systematic “Arabization” campaign of ethnic cleansing designed to harass and expel ethnic Kurds and Turkmen from government-controlled areas. Non-Arab citizens are forced to change their ethnicity or their identity documents and adopt Arab names, or they are deprived of their homes, property and food-ration cards, and expelled

So what was the Sierra Club doing to stop the "rape and genocide"? Here is their statement from their website about Iraq issued prior to the war:

We support our men and women in uniform. We hope and wish for their safe return, as we also hope for the safety of all innocent men, women and children in Iraq.

People of good conscience and good faith bring a range of concerns to this war. Expressing those concerns should not be grounds for challenges to one's patriotism. The Sierra Club believes that the best way to disarm Saddam Hussein would have been through the inspection process sanctioned by the United Nations. We still believe that the best way to support American troops, save the lives of innocent Iraqis, and prevent further environmental devastation, is to halt the fighting and proceed immediately with a peaceful, lawful, UN-sanctioned disarmament.

Disarmament and destruction of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction through resumed rigorous United Nations inspections will accomplish the international community's goals without risking more lives, endangering the environment, or increasing anti-American sentiment among the Iraqi people and others throughout the world.

While honest people can disagree about the primary reasons for this conflict, no one can disagree that Iraq is strategically important to our country and the world because of its oil reserves. No matter how long the conflict lasts, we will find ourselves in a similar situation again unless the U.S. and other nations act decisively to cut our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.

The simplest step would be to require that we reduce our country's dependence on oil by using existing technology to make new cars and SUVs go farther on a gallon of gas. We can also invest in increasing our reliance on wind and solar power, using technologies that generate energy more effectively than ever before. We can implement solutions that will save oil and save lives.

Notice, no mention of religious freedom or of genocide or of rape. That is because the Sierra Club is not against rape and genocide and atrocities. They are against oil. They are against skiing. They mention if we inspect for WMD's and stop using so much oil, they don't have much problem with what their friends at Amnesty International are saying about Rape and Genocide.

Joe Shirley wants to invoke the Koran in the Toilet story. But guess what, that story was a fabrication. It did not happen. It was a false story used by Al Qaeda to ratchet up the propoganda war and inflame tensions over Iraq to increase their recruiting. And the Sierra Club jumps on board with Shirley because their agenda makes for strange bedfellows. Whether you support the war in Iraq or not, surely no one supports rape and genocide. Joe Shirley wants to equate my skiing to GITMO torture, and my skiing to rape and genocide. And the Sierra Club has shown their stand on rape and genocide. Rape and kill all you want, just don't ski or use oil and destroy the environment.

Posted by Justin at 01:44 PM | Comments (1)

May 02, 2006

Advocating for Genocide

Today, I added my name on the list next to those of Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, and the other fine folks of the 20th Century that committed Mass Murder. We have a term for what they did--GENOCIDE. I am advocating for Genocide. No, I am not Hamas. Not Iran's President. Not Osama bin Laden. I am worse and Dave Smith and other's at Snowbowl may be worse according to the rhetoric from the Snowbowl Ski Debate:

Using reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks' Snowbowl amounts to desecration of a sacred Holy site of the Navajos, said Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. By allowing this desecration "the United States of America will commit genocide."

Sure, Snowbowl will probably use some bulldozers to move earth to build the snowmaking equipment and the resort. I don't think they plan to dig any open pits like Hitler or Mao for the dead bodies. I am not sure what Snowbowl's plans to commit genocide are, but there are no ovens. No gas chambers. Is this another holocaust? Auschwitz? Perhaps a smaller scale genocide like Darfur that is happening right now. Maybe another analogy would be more appropriate:

Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley Jr. told a U.S. District Court on Wednesday that proposed development of the sacred Dook'o'sliid would be like having a child witness the brutal violation of its mother, leaving it emotionally and psychologically scared forever.

According to Communications Director George Hardeen, the President testified, "It's like someone coming in and violating and raping our mother. It hurts me. She's already got scars."

That makes me feel better. But after the mass graves and rape rooms that Arizona Snowbowl is building are done and we skiers finish the raping and murder and genocide, what do we do next?

We capitulate to the demands of the Sierra Club:

The San Francisco Peaks in Arizona have long been a site sacred to thirteen Native American tribes including the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Tribe. However, they have also been at the center of a growing debate over the intersection of recreational development, environmental protection, and religious freedom for native peoples. Recently, the future of the Peaks was put in jeopardy as the U.S. Forest Service released a management plan that would allow a ski resort in the area to introduce artificial snow made from reclaimed sewage water. However, there are several unresolved questions about the environmental impacts of increased tourism in the region along with unanswered questions about the safety of using reclaimed water to make artificial snow. In fact, the management plan includes a reference to harmful impacts on the tribes and fails to take into account several realistic, alternative options for the area. Now Sierra Club has joined a diverse coalition to appeal the plan on several grounds, including the severe impacts on wildlife and their habitats as well as the dangerous consequences for religious freedoms.

The Sierra Club has a vision for Arizona that makes sense. They are behind the proposal to Drain Lake Powell:

The Sierra Club, the country's oldest environmental group, has caused a stir even among some of its supporters by a proposal to drain Lake Powell, the second-largest artificial lake in the country, situated along the Utah-Arizona border.

David Brower, 84, a former executive director of the group, says that the influential group didn't fully realize what it was giving up when, in 1956, it agreed with Western water interests to let Glen Canyon Dam be built, creating Lake Powell, in exchange for no dams at Echo Park or Split Mountain in Dinosaur National Monument.

Only years later, reports the Los Angeles Times, did Mr. Brower and others see the damage of the deep sandstone canyons cut by the Colorado River and its tributaries.

Mr. Brower and the Sierra Club say a strong case can now be made for draining the lake and restoring the natural beauty of the site: One study shows that it loses enough water a year through evaporation and seepage into its sandstone banks to fill the needs of 400,000 people — an alarming amount in the arid West, where water is life.

Environmentalists and the Sierra Club in general want pristine natural surroundings, yet also want us to manipulate nature and not allow uncontrolled forest fires either. Pristine nature is not very fun. Pristine nature means people die in avalanches, earth quakes, fires, etc. Pristine nature means no cars or Internet or cell phones. It means no electricity, no running water, no sewage treatment plants. Rampant cholera and plagues. That is nature. So they think that the Sierra Club or Green Peace decides what constitutes good nature versus bad nature. Lake Powell bad. Nuclear power bad. Oil companies bad. But having running water and electricity is good. Having lumber to build homes is ok, just not cutting down trees to get it. The same idiots that are saying drain Lake Powell will be using the electricity from it and yet be too obtuse to understand how it really benefits them. Snowbowl has a huge impact on Flag. It draws kids to NAU. It gives the community a sense of identity.

But the other parties to the Lawsuit are even better. The White Mountain Apache Tribe is jumping on this bandwagon. Because skiing on Sacred Mountains transcends the centuries old issues. Skiing on Sacred Peaks and using reclaimed water to make snow would destroy their way of life. It hurts all Indians. That is why the WMA tribe would never ski on peaks such as these or use reclaimed water. But what is economic impact of having two resorts competeing for Phoenix's business? Despite being one fifth the size and offering no snowmaking, one could deduce the numbers for Sunrise by taking Arizona's total numbers minus Snowbowls since Sunrise does not release their numbers, in a good snow year Snowbowl draws as many people as Sunrise simply because of its proximity to Phoenix and Flagstaff. The WMA tribe has good reason to want Snowbowl shut down. They are their competition.

One more quick point. What are the Tribes so angry at the White Man about? We took their homes and their lives by offering trinkets and beads. It was wrong. There is little doubt. But that was a century ago. They are making up for it though with this:

Sitting in her own urine, the elderly woman continued to play the game. Observers concluded she had some sort of bladder disorder, but the real problem was actually staring the woman in the face: the slot machine. Her gambling addiction had reached the point where she ignored everything --even her own bodily functions -- simply so she could keep on playing. Seniors with a gambling problem are known to stop taking medications, steal money, gamble with credit card money, gamble with money earmarked for utility bills, or even skip meals, Lisa Rafferty, residential program specialist, said. When seniors rely too heavily on gambling for entertainment, it can lead to addiction, she said. "Then they do it (gambling) all the time, without any regard to their own basic needs."

Or this:

Senior citizens are the fastest-growing group of gamblers and, some say, the most vulnerable. Those older than 65 who have gambled jumped from 35 percent in 1975 to 80 percent in 1998. Casinos sprouting up from Las Vegas to Indian reservations to riverboats market to older people. One Iowa spot offered a 50 percent prescription drug discount to players who took out a club card. Foxwood offers handicapped-accessible blackjack tables. "Years ago, gambling was illegal," Bob Gardy said. "Now, you can't turn on the TV without seeing a commercial. It's all done by the state." Nearby, players with canes and oxygen tanks sit like turtles, necks craned to the screen. Gamblers 60 and older lost $2.4 billion in Atlantic City casinos in 1997, 65 percent of all the money casinos took in. Some players lose their retirement savings and homes. New York's problem gamblers aged 65 and older more than tripled, 1986 and 1996. In New Jersey, those aged 55 and older seeking help rose 6 to 15 percent (in one year) of all calls. "Some of our clients will sit there for 12 hours," "They will not eat. They will not drink. It begins as a social outlet, but they get hooked and they gamble their retirement money. We see a lot of older people become addicted to slot machines."

Drain Lake Powell. Ski on our sacred mountain, but not theirs. You are committing rape and genocide.

I am refusing to spend a dollar at Sunrise again out of principle. This misplaced hatred of the White Man for centuries old oppression and calling me a rapist and a genocidal killer do not sit well. I will not frequent Indian Casinos. And I will support Snowbowl and Lake Powell as much as I can. These folks have to be stopped. They are irrational and they do not want what is good for our country, state, Flagstaff, skiing, industry, recreation. They are a coalition of people that hate our government and hate our citizens. And I will not subsidize them with my money.

Posted by Justin at 11:28 AM | Comments (1)

April 29, 2006

Snowbowl Offers Pass Credit For Season Pass Holders

Snowbowl is offering credits for folks that purchased season passes for this year since the resort was only open ten days.

This past winter has been a challenge for everyone; the lack of snow and shortened season is not what anyone imagined after a record setting winter. Luckily we were able to rally enough employees and open for a brief period in March and April. As a result the need for Snowbowl to make snow is more paramount then ever. Another fact is that this year temperatures would have allowed us to make snow as early as November and we could have been fully open by the Christmas holidays. The ability to succeed as a viable business and continue necessary improvements to the ski area depends on consistent snow and skier visitation.
...
The Peaks belong to everyone and Snowbowl has always been willing to share and accommodate religious beliefs and practices as we also have been, and will continue to be, good stewards of the land. The opposition would have you believe otherwise as in their latest communication; “If you choose to support Snowbowl you are supporting the attempts at further violations of the religious beliefs of hundreds of thousands of people”.

There is irony in the actions of the appellants in that the White Mountain Apaches own and operate Sunrise Ski Area on what they consider a sacred mountain, and on which they make snow with reclaimed water. The Yavapai Apache irrigate their casino grounds with reclaimed water and the list could go on. To add insult to injury there is little financial risk to the plaintiffs – no requirement to post a bond or reimburse legal costs with a losing decision.

...

Because of the short season, 05/06 Season Passholders will be given the option to renew their season passes for the 06/07 season at a 50% discount.

It is rare for a ski resort to give Season Pass holders a discount based on weather. When you buy a season pass, you place your $399 in the Weather's hands. And if the weather is bad, you stand to lose $399. But to most folks, $399 is not a huge amount of money. What if you had invested say $10M and were depending completely on the weather to get your investment back? Well, guess what, that is Snowbowl's situation. For all the folks that felt ripped off by the 10 Day season who bought season passes, how do you think the resort feels? And then the resort turns around and offers a refund. That is classy and a smart business move.

What is not classy gets back to the original issue. Sacred mountain. Force a business to pay almost $3.5M in legal fees to stay in business, a business that they have already been told at multiple levels including the US Supreme Court who refused to hear the previous case of Wilson vs. Block that was filed in 1979 to shut the resort down. The Navajos have never prevailed at any level, but they simply have to find enough money to file a lawsuit and have little to lose.

The lawsuit rests entirely upon the religious rights of a small group of people to dictate what the Forest Service can do with the land that they are in charge of. Plain and simple. Does Snowbowl have the right to follow through with the previously approved improvements on Forest Service Land or does the Navajo Nation, the Hopis, and the Sierra Club have the right to declare any mountain or other Federal Land a "holy place" and shut down all commerce or activity there.

This is a mountain located 120 miles from a metropolitan area of 4M people. Offering a great sport that encourages enjoyment of nature. The resort is a wonderful caretaker of the land and provides a valuable recreational opportunity for hundreds of thousands of skier visits. The same folks that want Snowbowl shut down are out trying to "drain Lake Powell" and have blinders on. They want to stop all logging. They want to deny the rest of us enjoyment of multi-use Forest land because one group believes the area to be sacred and other groups don't like the fact that the area is not pristine in its natural wonder.

What bothers me the most about this is not that the Navajos have a beef with Snowbowl. It is the hangers on like the WMA tribe and the Sierra Club that have attached their agendas to the religious beliefs of the Navajos. That have pooled funds to use the religious beliefs of the Navajos to advance their own either financial (WMA) or environmental (Sierra Club) agenda. The environmental impact has been studied over and over by the Forest Service and scientists and is a closed case. So now the hangers on are pumping money into suing for Sacred Lands for the Navajos. And all of the financial burden of this are placed on Snowbowl. What a system when outside groups can effectively shut someone else's business down by proxy funding a lawsuit over religious beliefs of a people that they have absolutely nothing to do with.

Posted by Justin at 01:00 PM

April 18, 2006

The Economics of the Ski Industry

You can tell a lot about a company by reading their financials... matter of fact, you can tell almost everything about a company by reading them. Let's have a look at American Ski Company, who runs Steamboat, the Canyons, and several resorts back east:

PARK CITY, UTAH – March 15, 2006 – American Skiing Company (OTCBB: AESK) today announced its financial results for the second quarter of fiscal 2006. The Company reported strong results in its Christmas/New Years and Presidents' Day holiday periods, and slightly lower skier visits than in the prior fiscal year in the East in January (excluding New Years) due principally to weather related difficulties at its eastern resorts. At Steamboat and The Canyons in the West, the Company recorded a 12% increase in skier visits for the winter operating season to date thru January 29, 2006, due to strong booking patterns and favorable weather creating excellent skiing and riding conditions. The company's eastern resorts were negatively impacted by rain events in January, and recorded a 3% decrease in skier visits for the winter operating season to date thru January 29, 2006.

Despite these challenges, the company achieved a record high level of resort revenues on a same-resort basis for each of the second quarter (an increase of 6% over the prior fiscal year quarter) and first six months of fiscal 2006. Other highlights included a fiscal 2006 year to date increase in cash provided by operating activities of nearly 9% over the 27 weeks ended January 30, 2005.

Interesting. But the numbers get more interesting from there:

On a GAAP basis, net loss attributable to common shareholders for the second quarter of fiscal 2006 was $11.3 million, or $0.36 per basic and diluted common share, compared with a net loss attributable to common shareholders of $22.1 million, or $0.70 per basic and diluted common share for the second quarter of fiscal 2005. Total consolidated revenue was $112.5 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2006, compared with $106.1 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2005. Revenue from resort operations was $109.9 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2006 compared with $103.4 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2005. The $109.9 million in resort revenues represents a record level on a same-resort basis, since the sale of the Heavenly and Sugarbush resorts in fiscal 2002. The increase in resort revenues reflects the higher business volumes in December of fiscal 2006 relative to the prior fiscal year. Revenue from real estate operations was $2.6 million for the quarter versus $2.7 million for the comparable period in fiscal 2005. Excluding other items (for a reconciliation of other items, please see the tables following this discussion), the net loss was $11.3 million, compared to a net loss of $16.2 million for the second quarter of fiscal 2005.

It is a strange sport. Over half of the income is from Lift Ticket revenue. Lift Ticket revenue has a huge fixed cost component and very little variable costs. Most of the industry is structured this way. Huge capital investment. Incremental returns on long term use of that investment. But these resorts are consistently losing money (or at very least breaking even when you factor in Depreciation, etc.).

I make this point because we have heard a lot of folks in the Snowbowl, Arizona Debate think that a resort can continue to operate when they do not have a consisten season. Let's think about this. Let's say you run an amusement park. (Not Neverland Ranch mind you) You invest $100M into the new Gizmatronic Roller Coaster. You have to sell a lot of tickets to recoup the investment. There are only a few costs associated with it--taking tickets, repair, occasionally painting it, cleaning up vomit, electricity, wear and tear, etc.--so your variable costs or cost per rider are low, but your fixed costs of the $100M investment are high. You depend on being able to get riders. If you have a coaster that breaks down frequently and is inoperable most of the time, it is next to impossible to recover your fixed capital investment. You have a break even point in number of visits and if you cannot hit that point, you operate at a loss.

We all want every lift to be a high speed quad and every day to be a powder day. If companies are not recovering their fixed costs for these kind of improvements, you end up on a 30 year old double chair that breaks down. The ability to operate snowmaking allows the resort to ensure a more consistent season and therefore justify improving the quality of their fixed investments. Without snowmaking, the season is even more unpredictable and one disasterous winter can put a small resort or company that does not have 20 resorts spread across both coasts out of business.

Snowmaking and multiple resorts in different geographic areas is a hedge against a bad winter. Vermont is a hedge against Utah and Colorado having a bad winter and vice versa. Snowbowl has no hedge. They have no snowmaking.

For those of you that think they are just in it for the "profit" and are another evil corporation trying to destroy the environment to make an almighty buck, think again. Resorts that have huge real estate operations and are diversified do well. But the smaller companies don't have the deep pockets to endure droughts or low turnout due to bad conditions. All of their revenue is generated by skier visits.

It is an ugly sport for investors. Sure, there is something sexy about having investments in real estate or in the ski industry, but the resort side of things is icky. Most industry companies are privately held, so they do not release their financials, but think about making gigantic fixed cost investments and having to depend on the weather to determine if you make a profit or not. In that sense, we are lucky to have ski resorts at all, especially the ones that are not MEGA-Corporate resorts. See what is happening to the small resorts in Switzerland.

In Switzerland the European problem can be seen in microcosm. There are around 600 ski lift companies spread across more than 200 resorts in the country, and only a dozen of the latter ? according to analysts ? have growth potential.

Since most Swiss resorts are small and located in peripheral regions, they have low cash flow, an inability to attract investment capital, and are crippled by high costs of labour, services and food, according to professor Thomas Bieger of St Gallen University.

"The Swiss ski industry is split into two camps: bigger companies [in large resorts] that are innovative and can keep pace with global developments, and too many operators in small ski areas who don't have the means to invest."

Bieger told swissinfo that consolidation is one of the answers to the problem. "Only then do you have enough money to make investments."

This is the McDonaldsization effect. Consolidation to the point where every resort appears the same and is owned by only a few huge companies. Little guys cannot compete. Think Walmart and Target and maybe a Sears or K-Mart are the only place to shop for anything. I don't argue that it is good or bad for the industry, only that the folks that are hating on Snowbowl--namely the Sierra Club and other Liberal Environmental Lobbying Groups--are the same ones that are hating on Walmart and corporations consistently. But by fighting against snowmaking and shutting down Snowbowl, which is a very real possibility based on the economics of it, they are in fact making the ski industry even more like the small town that gets overrun by Walmart, only this time it is the Vails and the Aspens and the Keystones and the operating companies of the US Mega-resorts that will soon be the only place to ski when all the smaller areas are gone.

Considering what an Environmental Impact Study and fighting against Lawsuits in Federal Court costs, instead of spending money on lifts and snowmaking equipment to keep a small resort viable, Snowbowl is spending money fighting for their very life. That is the landscape in Arizona and if you like skiing at all in Flagstaff, be prepared for what will happen if Snowbowl loses this battle. They will no longer be able to justify the fixed investment and the entire experience will deteriorate to the point that it is not worth going or worth Snowbowl operating. There is no choice. It is snowmaking or drive to a Colorado Mega-resort.

Posted by Justin at 02:11 PM | Comments (2)

March 20, 2006

More on Snowbowl's Snowmaking

When will the insanity end?

FLAGSTAFF - A group has presented the city with petitions that asked the City Council to block snowmaking with reclaimed wastewater on the San Francisco Peaks.

The unofficial petitions were delivered to Mayor Joe Donaldson on Friday, the same day that the Arizona Snowbowl ski area opened this season. Record-breaking low snowfall this year delayed its opening day by three months.

...

The Navajo Nation has appealed a court decision to allow the ski area to use treated wastewater to make snow, arguing that federal environmental policies weren't followed and the tribe's religious freedom was violated.

The Save the Peaks Coalition said its petitions contained more than 3,000 signatures, including those from people in other countries.

The petitions seek to cancel the already approved sale of the water to the ski area. An automatic renewal agreement has already been signed and approved twice by the City Council. Construction on the pipeline, to be financed by Snowbowl, has yet to begin.

Let me go through the argument briefly again.

Snowbowl wants to add snowmaking capability to their small resort that sits on Federal Land and is the only skiing/snowboarding opportunity within 3 hours of Phoenix, now the 5th Largest City in the United States with almost 3.5M people. The ski area takes up under 200 acres and the snowmaking will use reclaimed wastewater that the city of Flagstaff treats and normally releases into the local river. Most ski resorts use reclaimed water and most resorts offer snowmaking to ensure a consistent season. The Forest Service went through extensive hearings and decision making and OK's the plan.

The Navajos object because they claim the peaks are sacred. Using reclaimed water would desecrate their shrine. The Sierra Club objects because they either don't like the resort or don't like the environmental impacts of waste water, but the environmental assessment has disproven their theories. The White Mountain Apache Tribe owns a competing resort that uses wastewater for snowmaking and objects because it will impact their business to have Snowbowl expand and also out of solidarity against the White Oppressors of the Federal Government. People in Flag are mixed. Hippie Moonbats want to save mother earth, but some are also snowboarders or skiers which leaves them in a quandry. The net is that in order for the resort to stay in business, snowmaking is a must. So this is basically a choice between shutting the resort down, coming up with an alternate plan, or implementing a plan approved by the Forest Service, Town of Flagstaff, and affirmed by the courts.

Now, we have folks from another country coming in to sign petitions about what to do with Federal "multi-use" land that our courts have already affirmed are justified in using treated wastewater. Again and Again, different groups have used a "kitchen sink" approach to throw everything they can at the resort to stop the expansion. People that have never been to Flagstaff or the peaks. People that do not understand the term multi-use. We are not talking about a strip mine or clear cutting a forest. We are talking about a ski resort. And the only argument that holds any water is that of the religious rights of the Navajos being violated. Using Wastewater is being done at most resorts across the country.

I don't understand how pouring wastewater into the local river is OK, but making artificial snow with treated wastewater is not. Why is hiking on the peaks or simply looking at them ok, but skiing is now? This is not about wastewater, but about whether skiing should be allowed on the peaks, which the Navajos also sued to stop in the late 1970's and lost.

This sort of endless lawsuit process is retarded. This may well push the snowmaking out into the next decade while this snakes its way through the courts. And Snowbowl gets branded by the Sierra Club and the Navajos as the next Exxon Valdez.

Posted by Justin at 12:50 PM

March 14, 2006

Sunrise and Snowbowl to Open this Weekend

Looks like winter is not over. The latest winter storm dumped over 5 feet at Sunrise and better than 3 feet at Snowbowl. This would have been the first time in several decades that Snowbowl failed to open for at least a day in a season.

Who knows how long either resort will remain open, but this gives the folks in Flag that have season passes at least something for their $400. What a bummer for the folks that enjoyed last year's 450" season only to be rewarded with ONE SKI DAY for 2006. It may be a ski week, but nonetheless, it has been brutal for the SouthWest this year.

My shoulder is still aching and I smell of Icy Hot from my knee and shoulder. I am sore, I am tired, I am disappointed that I only skied two days this weekend instead of four, and more than anything, I am glad to sleep in my fat king sized bed at home and hopefully heal my aching body.

Sunday is shaping up to be a day to remember. Epic Pow. Trying some new tricks. I wasn't the only one that caught an Edge on Sunday. The Cardinals caught one too, took $30M over four years, but the Cards made their single biggest signing in the last 17 years in the desert. Oh, yeah, and they hosed Indy in the process. And I select my new seats in Glendale on April 4th. I have the Draft, NBA Playoffs, mini-camps, and a long summer in Brian Head to look forward to. Then the NFL and Ski Seasons. 2006-07 is around the corner.

Posted by Justin at 09:33 AM

February 27, 2006

More on the Awful Arizona Season

Sunrise officially closed on Sunday, marking a season in which Apache and Cyclone never even opened. Apache and Cyclone are my personal favorite places to ski on the mountain and are typically the best places to get freshies and stay away from the crowds.

Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff still has not opened, but that is kinda difficult to do when you only receive 20" of snow all year and have no snowmaking. Starting shortly, the resort should have snowmaking capability up and running now that the lawsuit is settled with the Indian tribes and Sierra Club that tried to stop it.

I am working to get some more details from Snowbowl on the improvements going on up there and Sunrise on the 2005-06 Season and hope to post additional info shortly.

Posted by Justin at 01:31 PM | Comments (5)

February 24, 2006

It Was the Best of Times... Worst of Times

The following article is from the Arizona Republic dated today.

Utah is poised to set its third consecutive record by exceeding last season's 3.9 million skier visits, Ski Utah spokeswoman Hilary Reiter said.

Snowfall along the Wasatch Range - home to 11 resorts including Snowbird, Park City and Alta - has been about 157 percent more than the total in an average season.

Utah is loving life. How about Colorado?

In Colorado, so much snow has fallen that many mountain towns have piled it high on street corners and in parking lots. Aspen has had more than 21 feet of snow, with many longtime residents saying it's the best they have ever seen, Aspen Skiing Co. spokeswoman Kristen Rust said.

Colorado resort managers are hopeful they will set a record for skier visits this year. The previous record of 11.98 million was set in the 1997-98 season; last year, the total was 11.81 million. From October to December, the resorts reported 3.1 million skier visits, said Rob Perlman, president of the trade group Colorado Ski Country USA.

What about Snowbowl, Arizona that has been battling to get snowmaking capability added so that they can have a consistent season?

Meanwhile, folks at the Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff - in the midst of a drought - continue to wait for enough snow to open, a year after posting a season record 460 inches. Since October, they have seen about 20 inches of snow, resort spokesman David Smith said.

The delay has cost millions of dollars in revenue, "and you can put that in capital letters if you want," he said.

"It's extremely frustrating to sit around and look at the slopes and see dry grass where typically they should be covered in white," he said. "The hope is still there that we'll still be able to have a good season, at least the latter half."

20 Bleepin' Inches? 20? Come on people. I don't know what Arizona did to deserve another Fire Season like 2003, but this is gonna be a bad one. There is no snow at all. We are going to be engulfed by flames shortly. I mean like Arizona needs massive fires to add to the already heated nature of our state.

We need rain in a bad way. The high country needs some snow. We are past due.

Posted by Justin at 01:28 PM | Comments (1)

December 20, 2005

Snowbowl Snowmaking Update

The hyperbole is overwhelming. I won't go into all of my rant of business interests versus the environment, etc., but being as A. this is a ski blog (hence the name) and B. I live in Arizona, I thought I would provide at least a small glimpse into what is going on in the courthouses of Arizona by several tribes hell bent on denying my use of BLM land in Arizona for skiing.

Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff needs to make snow or face going out of business. The drought for the last decade has taken its toll and in order to ensure a reasonably normal season, the resort wants to add snowmaking. Pretty standard fare for a ski resort. This year, Flag still has zero snow and the ski season is 1/3 of the way over. Since Flag has a huge water shortage, they want to use treated wastewater. We are not talking water with floaties or raw sewage, but water of the quality that is normally released back into our rivers every day by treatment plants.

The local tribes are hacked. It seems that their religious beliefs claim that the peaks are sacred. How hacked you might ask? Try this quote on for size:

The Hopis believe that the Creator communicates to them through spiritual intermediaries called kachinas, who live in the peaks from early August until midwinter.

The importance of the snowmaking issue prompted one Hopi spiritual leader to even testify where some of the tribe's most sacred sites are on the peaks, a heretofore taboo subject.

Shirley testified that putting treated wastewater on the Snowbowl ski area would be, for traditional Navajos, akin to "a child watching his mother get raped."

I would never advocate the raping of someones mother in front of a child. Wow. My activity of skiing on these peaks is akin to grabbing some Navajo's mom, probably by the hair, and forcing myself on her. Wha-what?

Let's get real. First, the local Indian tribes don't own the land. If it were on their reservation, then they should be given paramount importance and decide what is in their best interests. And judging by what they have done with their reservations, they would have a ski resort (see Sunrise, AZ) and a casino (see Hondah Casino, Bucky's, Gila River, etc.). So if we accept their status as a semi-independant nation, they have the freedom to regulate their own activities within their borders. Build all the casinos you want on your land. Good times. You need casinos to bring economic prosperity to your lands, fair enough and we will ignore the impact gambling has on our society and even not force state regulatory oversight onto you.

I am sorry that your religion teaches that creation started on these mountains and now I like to ski on them. Some folks just north of you believe that in order to get into heaven, you need multiple wives. I am all kinds of down with not having skiing in Flagstaff, but if you shut down my resort because of your religious beliefs, I will have no recreational activities during the winter. In the name of religious freedom, if you shut Flag down, you better let me have 3-4 wives so I have something to do during the winter in line with my new found religious beliefs.

I have a thought. Why doesn't the tribe buy out the ski resort? Why not raise the money and buy the place and shut it down? Why use the courts to try to take away the rights of all Arizonans to enjoy our public land (actually only 1% of the four peaks area) to appease the interests of a small group of people's religious beliefs?

The tribes are holding the economic interests of the entire community hostage and then making comments about raping someone's mother? Every time I see a bus load of grandparents riding to the Indian Casinos to lose their Social Security check to the tribes, I would say that is more akin to the raping of one's mother.

There are two ski areas in Arizona of any conscience. (Sorry Williams and Mount Lemmon) We are on the verge of having one go out of business over a "creation myth" of the Navajos. So now I have to drive another several hundred miles to enjoy the sport I love. Maybe I should quit skiing and start playing Texas Hold'em at the local Indian casino.

Posted by Justin at 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

September 27, 2005

Snow Making at Snowbowl, AZ Update

Snowbowl in Arizona is being sued by the Sierra Club and several local Indian tribes over their plans to install snowmaking equipment to ensure a more consistent operating season. Because the snowmaking will use reclaimed waste water after it is properly treated, local tribes have compared spreading waste water on their sacred San Francisco peaks to flushing the Koran down the toilet.

Snowbowl is located just outside of Flagstaff, about two hours north of Phoenix. Flagstaff is home of Northern Arizona University, so Snowbowl tends to be filled with college kids on weekends. The project will enlarge the resort and provide some much needed enhancements.

The suit is scheduled to be heard in October. More details to come as the suit progresses.

Posted by Justin at 11:42 AM