« Return to this article

Know the West

Greens call snowmaking a snow job

  COLORADO

The Forest Service has given Arapahoe Basin Ski Area the green light to imitate nature and make snow.


In 1998, A-Basin, the only major resort in Colorado that doesn't make artificial snow, submitted a plan to divert water from the North Fork of the Snake River. Snowmaking would allow the ski area to compete with large neighbors such as Vail, while reliable, near year-round operations might also stabilize business in low snow years, say A-Basin representatives.


But the ski area's proposal met strong opposition from a Colorado environmental group. In January, Colorado Wild appealed the Forest Service district office's decision to approve snowmaking. The nonprofit group said taking water from the North Fork would decrease dilution downstream and increase the concentration of heavy metals in the polluted Snake River.


In February, Colorado Wild's appeal was denied by the regional Forest Service office in Denver. The reviewing officer said there was no evidence the decision violated any law or policy and that all water quality issues were adequately addressed in the environmental impact statement.


A-Basin spokesman Alan Henceroth says the ski area went to great lengths to minimize any environmental damage. The ski area has representatives on a task force for cleaning up the Snake, he says, and "no water diverter in Colorado has ever been required to meet such strict standards."


Nonetheless, Colorado Wild says it plans to sue to overturn the agency's decision. Staffer Rocky Smith asks: "How much is enough for these ski areas?"