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Know the West

Public lands for needy ski resorts

  In Summit County, Colo., where housing prices force ski area service workers into trailer parks and long commutes (HCN, 4/17/95), a national forest supervisor has proposed a solution. He is Sonny LaSalle, who says the Forest Service could offer some of its public land to ski areas or other local businesses to build low-cost rental units. The housing would be available in the summer to forest volunteers and in the winter to resort workers. LaSalle, who manages the White River National Forest, sent up the trial balloon at a housing conference.

Officials from Glenwood Springs welcomed the proposal, but not everyone agreed.

In a letter to the Glenwood Post, resident Bob Richardson said, "Those employees are here commuting and scratching around for housing of their own free will. Must we, in effect, foul our own nest to accommodate them?"

Summit County Commissioner Joe Sands was also skeptical, but for different reasons. When ski resort operators claim they can't afford to build employee housing, says Sands, they really mean they're saving their private land for luxury homes and condominiums. "Ski areas will just lower salaries if (the Forest Service) provides housing," warns Sands. "Why are we subsidizing the profit margin of industrial tourism?"

*Heather Abel