U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., wants to ensure some of the fees collected from ski hills on U.S. Forest Service land are used to support local recreation and community priorities. He says a bill he …
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., wants to ensure some of the fees collected from ski hills on U.S. Forest Service land are used to support local recreation and community priorities. He says a bill he recently introduced — the Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act — will invest in outdoor recreation in places like Park County.
“Right now, Wyoming ski communities are sending money to Washington but not receiving the full benefits from those fees,” Barrasso said in a statement. “Our legislation will help make the Forest Service a better partner.”
The SHRED Act would create a Ski Area Fee Retention Account to hold 60 to 70% of the rental charges that ski slope operators pay to the Forest Service. The money in the account would then be used to “address broad recreation needs to meet the growing visitation and demand for outdoor recreation,” according to Barrasso’s office — including to process proposals for improvement projects, train staff, provide information to visitors and prepare for wildfires within ski areas. Excess funds collected in one forest could also be sent to other forests that have ski hills with needs.
However, the new account would boost more than ski slopes. Around 25% of the funds could be used for managing other special use permits, recreation, leases, avalanche information and education or maintenance and services — such as trailhead improvements, restrooms, parking area maintenance, signage, etc. Additionally, if any of the fees are left over, the Forest Service can use them for non-ski hill related purposes.
“The idea is that the Ski Area Fee Retention Account would help ensure the Forest Service can meet the growing number of visitors and demand for outdoor recreation on the forests, on and off ski areas,” explained Sarah Durdaller, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Exactly how much money the bill would collect is currently unclear. However, the new account is intended to be additive.
“This bill will not affect or replace any other funding on Forest Service lands,” Durdaller said.
Sleeping Giant Ski Area owner Nick Piazza joined with other ski hill operators in Wyoming and across the country in endorsing the measure.
“As a small family owned ski area, Sleeping Giant would benefit greatly from this bill being passed,” Piazza said in a statement. He noted that the business is one of the few providing outdoor recreation opportunities in Park County in the winter.
“Our operations support our local economy, and any profits that we generate are spent on the ski area’s maintenance and development,” Piazza said. “We feel the unique outdoor experience that ski areas like ours provide to visitors of America’s national forests and parks are worthy of your support.”
Mary Kate Buckley, president of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, offered “enthusiastic” support of the SHRED Act, with the National Ski Areas Association and America Outdoors also backing the legislation.
The bill has bipartisan support in Congress as well. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., has joined Barrasso in sponsoring the legislation, with Sens. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., James Risch, R-Idaho, Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., and Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, signing on as co-sponsors.
Barrasso described the legislation as giving Wyoming’s skiing communities “more bang for their buck.”
“They will be able to provide an even better experience for visitors by improving their facilities, protecting the forests, and supporting the local economy,” he said.
The SHRED Act, H.R. 3686, has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, where Barrasso is the ranking member.