What Congress’ National Forest Debate Means For Skiing

New measures could affect our country's most iconic resorts and backcountry

The Chugach Range is in trouble.
The Chugach Range is just one of our favorite National Forest ski spots that could be on the endangered species list in the near future. PHOTO: Joseph/Flickr.

Last month, somewhere in the depths of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., Congress made a decision that could change our beloved skiing landscape forever. On March 26, the Senate voted 51-49 in favor of SA 838, an amendment that suggests the privatization of public lands—namely National Forest and Wilderness areas—in order to offset budget deficit.

While nothing was written into law in late March, the language sets a dangerous precedent that many of our nation’s wildlife sanctuaries may be handed over to state legislators and the consequential throes of the highest private bidders within the next few years.

So what does this mean for skiing, and why do we care?

Well, for one, privatizing public land has an air of finality to it, especially if big business is involved. Once they buy it from the state, they’re probably not selling it back—at least not in its original form. Big name extraction companies are salivating over areas like Arizona, Alaska, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah—places that happen to like their skiing—and their potential natural resource reserves that are, for now, protected by the federal government.

It also opens up potential for land grabs by resorts themselves, which, while it may seem like more future ski access, likely translates to pristine backcountry becoming Kanye and Kim’s next condo complex. Bottom line: This is scary. Nothing is a sure thing yet, but with momentum in Congress rolling, Doomsday may be closer than we’d ever hope. Still not convinced? Here are just a few of the spots that will be affected by a public land grab:

-Alaska’s Chugach Range (part of Chugach National Forest)

-Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest

-New Mexico’s Taos, Pajarito, Ski Santa Fe and all of the surrounding backcountry

-Idaho’s Sawtooth Range

-23 of Colorado’s 27 current ski areas

-Arizona Snowbowl and virtually all of Arizona’s ski resorts

Do any of those ring a bell?

In addition, the National Forest land that temporarily derailed Ski Link early on will likely be back on the table, prime for the picking, and making DeerParkySolBrightitude a distinct possibility.

So what can We the People do? Besides knowledging up, there is a petition making the rounds through The Wilderness Society and we can also start pressing our state senators to turn this ship around. These may not seem like the best options, but the recoil has to start somewhere, and it has to start soon.