EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - A bill designed to make it easier to create off-season jobs cleared the U.S. House of Representatives late Monday.
The Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act seeks to amend the current ski-only permitting rules for ski areas on U.S. Forest Service land.
Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Denver, sponsored the bill, H.R. 765, in the House where it received bi-partisan support. It now heads for the Senate where Colorado Sen. Mark Udall, a Democrat, and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican, sponsor it.
DeGette sponsored the bill in the House. It's about job creation, she said.
"At a time when our No. 1 priority in Congress must be creating jobs for Americans, I am proud to have led the bipartisan effort to pass a bill that will create stable, year-round jobs in the 13 states currently home to ski resorts on public land," DeGette said.
Udall says the bill will help boost year-round economies in ski resorts by making it easier for the Forest Service to permit activities and events on national forest lands, beyond the Nordic and alpine skiing and snowboarding already allowed.
The bill put limits on the sorts of activities allowed on National Forest System land: tennis courts, water slides, swimming pools, golf courses and amusement parks would not be permitted.
U.S. ski areas enjoyed more than 60 million visits last ski season, DeGette said. Of those, 21 million were in the Rocky Mountain region.
"Providing summer recreation opportunities at already-developed ski areas means winter guests will be more likely to return to their favorite spots at other times of the year, bringing increased economic benefits for these communities," DeGette said.
Vail Resorts calculates that more tourists surround its resorts in summer than winter.
"The strategy is to capture a much larger share of summer tourism on our mountain resorts," the ski company said in a report for its 2011 investors meeting.
Udall is a former mountain guide and outdoor educator, and called the challenge of providing steady jobs "significant."
"Tourism is a top economic driver for Colorado, but because many of our ski areas are limited to providing recreational opportunities during the winter months only, many ski towns swing between thriving winters and slumping shoulder seasons every year," Udall said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.