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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 March 19, 2007 04:25 PM