TELLURIDE – Prior to 2011, ski areas operating on U.S. Forest Service lands had little flexibility in creating new, year-round recreational opportunities because their permits were limited to Nordic and alpine skiing. Thanks to the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011 and this week’s announcement that the Forest Service has finalized its year-round recreation guidelines, ski resorts, including the Telluride Ski Resort, now have more options for drawing in visitors, especially in the summer months.
On Tuesday, the Forest Service announced that it has finalized its policy guidelines that open opportunities for ski areas to promote year-round recreation activities that are natural resource-based. The guidelines, according to the announcement, will be published in the Federal Register sometime this week and will take effect immediately.
The revised directives originate from the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act of 2011, which amended the National Forest Ski Area Permit Act of 1986 limiting ski resort recreation to Nordic and alpine skiing. The 2011 act specifically includes activities like disc golf courses, rope courses, downhill mountain bike trails, zip lines and other activities that are natural resource-based.
Jeff Proteau, vice president of mountain operations at the Telluride Ski and Golf Co., welcomed the news and said the directive falls in line with some of the resort’s plans for expanded recreational opportunities in the summer months.
“Before 2011, you couldn’t even do a disc golf course or a downhill bike trail,” Proteau said on Wednesday. “We haven’t seen what’s going to be published yet but it will expand the flexibility of what you can and can’t do. Now, we can put together a menu of recreational opportunities that will make us even more of a summer destination.”
Proteau said this week’s announcement was “timely” for the Telluride Ski Resort, as company officials continue to work on an updated master development plan for the resort. He expects the plan to include new summer recreational opportunities such as expanded mountain biking trails and a state-of-the-art zip line tour that could run from either the top of Station St. Sophia (the top of the gondola) or from the top of Lift 4 down to the resort’s base in Mountain Village.
While there are plenty of summer recreational opportunities in the Telluride region from rafting to hiking to mountain biking, Proteau said the Forest Service directive will allow the ski area to find more “anchor” recreational opportunities that could attract a wider variety of visitors. But first, he said, the ski area must continue to work on its development master plan.
“Our first step is to get the master development plan reviewed and received,” he said. “We are looking at what’s appropriate for Telluride, and we will be going out and looking at that draft document with other entities like the county and towns here very soon.”
Estimates by the U.S. Forest Service indicate that expanding ski area recreation activities will increase by 600,000 the number of summer visits on national forests (ski areas now average 23 million visits annually). Also expected are an additional 600 full or part-time jobs and nearly $40 million to be spent in local mountain communities nationwide.