Development In Ski Industry Essay, Research Paper
The NH ski industry has been a part of my life since day one. I literally have grown up at the bottom of the slopes of Dartmouth Skiiway. I have been a racer all my life and have for years had my fair share of extensively traveling NH mountains and sampling all that the NH ski industry has had to offer. It was not until recently that I have come to understand that my beloved ski mountains are also well entrenched in environmental issues. Being a resource economics major I now realize that the NH ski industry is no longer the perfect wonderland it seemed to me as a child. Topics such as wildlife habitat, water quality and stream health, air pollution and much more are now all directly impacted by the industry. No longer can lifts be built and new larger, faster snowmaking devices be used without first giving a lot of thoughts to the environmental impacts that may occur. Yet the industry is always expanding and looking for new and different ways to attract more and more people. These expansions have many issues to talk of but the one I would like to focus on is the development of real-estate at the resorts. The process of building huge complexes to house the throngs of people that year after year come back for visits.
Issues such as water use and air pollution are all very important, and whole papers could be devoted to those topics. Being a native New Englander it is not so much the new trails being built or the sophisticated snow making systems that are being created that has caught my eye as much as the developmental sprawl that seems to be overtaking NH resorts. I belive that most ski areas try to do right by the environment, and use the best available technology to keep the industry environmentally friendly. Developmental sprawl is another thing, most of the new condos and resort real estate is being created on private lands which the industry has little control over. This sort of strip development can lead to housing inflation, traffic congestion, and poses many problems for the social and economic infrastructure of the towns it effects. Many “…ski resorts are no longer the 800-pound gorilla threatening mountain valleys. Rather, the villan of rampant commercial over-development is bigger and more complex: thousands of people moving to the mountains for reasons additional to skiing. In a few towns, skiing is no longer the engine of growth, but is becoming a mere amenity like golf.” (http:www.wildwilderness.org/wi/skiarea.htm) To me this is what may begin to lead to the decline of the industry. No longer will the NH ski industry offer the homely mountain feeling it always has had if trends continue the way they are.
Developmental sprawl is something almost every American has witnessed in their life. If there is an attraction, whether its recreation or the weather pretty much almost anything, people will begin to show up and alter the social and economic life that is already established in the area. Along with the hoards of people that come to live or buy condos at NH ski areas comes their SUV’s, their waste, and a demand for expansion among other impacts. As the mountain grows so to does the area around it. Loon Mountain is a great example, they began a process in the mid-eighties to begin an expansion that included 30 trails and 8 lifts. Now after years of litigation, and public hearings they are only asking for 6 trails and 1 lift. The impact that would be felt by the expansion originally asked for would have been tremendous, an expansion of that proportion would have brought thousands of more people to the area. Housing demands would have sky rocketed, traffic would be astronomical, and development in the loon mountain area would have been booming. Thought to wildlife habitat and pollution control would have probably been tossed aside as the corporations would have reaped the rewards of their new found tourist destination. The current expansion is more realistic, sure it may attract a few more people but overall the area will not have to change all that much. The increased crowds will not cause a tremendous change in development, and any environmental impacts that occur will be on a scale that could be corrected if need be. Most of all the Loon Mountain area can still offer the quaint NH experience that I belive represents the NH ski industry.
National Forrest Lands play a huge role in the NH ski industry. Much of the prime skiing terrain in the state lies on National Forrest Land, mainly the White Mountains. “When the Forrest Service approves ski slopes near private land, the value of the private land jumps. Looking at ski lifts that service mediocre slopes near vacation homes,…environmentalists derisively call them “real estate lifts.”(http://www.wildwilderness.org/wi/skiarea.htm) This needs to play into the minds of the Forrest Service when they designate land for ski industry use. They are not only opening up an area for recreation but they are causing property values to rise around the area and development to increase on those private properties. The Forrest Service may be keeping a close watch on their federal lands but the private lands are left to those that own them and if they want to sell their land to a developer to build 100 condo units there may not be much to stop them. With every development that is created in the state of NH to me the industry looses a little of its appeal. The new trend seems to be to focus on the real estate figures and the money these developments will bring in and hopefully sell some lift passes on the side. Although these developments due bring in some revenue to the state in more ways then just lift ticket sales, the Forrest Services first priority should be the environment and this includes the impacts they will have on public and private lands.
Many groups now oppose ski area expansion and many different methods have been used in order to slow or hault thses expansions. Some organizations like Environmental Liberation Front have gone so far as arson, burning down lodges in Vail, Colo. Although this gets the point across that development does have serious environmental impacts it does not help accomplish anything long term. The creation of NEPA(National Environmental Policy Act) in 1970 was a great tool for assesing the impacts of development on private land. This act has made many agencies go through the process of an Environmental Impact Statement which help to assess different options to the proposed development and also lets the public play a substantial role. The Environmental Impact Statements may take lots of time and money but all environmental issues are addressed. The problem is NEPA does not effect private lands and causes no private land owners to consider environmental impacts. The way to begin to curb this development would to have some sort of NEPA type act that could apply to private landowners. Something that would maybe tax a private landowner who sells out to a corporation for development, or maybe a permitting system that would only allow so much development to happen on private lands as recreational areas are created. In my personal view anything that would help private landowner’s think twice before selling their land would be a start.
There has been some recent happenings that have helped the ski industry become more friendly environmentally. In June 2000 the “National Ski Areas Association announced the completion of an Environmental Charter that holds participating ski areas to a broad set of voluntary principles for protection of the alpine areas in which they operate.”(http://www.clf.org/hot/20000614.htm) This is also known as the sustainable slopes program and I belive it’s giant step forward for the industry to start to look at the other effects they have as they expand besides those that are taking place on just the mountain. This charter is the work of a collaboration of agencies from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to the Conservation Law Foundation, the input of all these agencies almost guarantees that all aspects will be considered during development. Many people are also letting developers know they are unwelcome. One developer that proposed a new area “…had the resources and they had the permits but they knew that in the community there no longer was a desire to have a new ski area.” (http://www.wildwilderness.org/wi/skiarea.htm) So it is possible to curb development if the community can join together to be heard. What used to be long lengthy court battles between environmentalists and ski industry developers has since been able to settle down to where the two sides can at least hear each other out and try their best to work towards a compromise.
As our economy continues to stay strong and/or grow people will always be looking for a way to spend leisure time. As far as recreation goes I can think of no better way then to spend money on skiing. My bias is not against tourists and large corporations that now seem to dominate the industry, my problem lies in the fact that the NH industry is not one of big mountains, and fancy hotels. I think the NH industries attraction lies in its shear wilderness beuty and the small homely towns in which it resides. Developmental sprawl is an eyesore in many of these towns and stands to benefit nobody besides the big guns up in the large corporations. The industries Preamble in the Sustainable Slopes program is a strong indicator that we are on the right track, “A strong environment ethic underlies our operations, makes us stewards of the natural surroundings, and is the basis for our commitment to constant improvement in environmental conditions.” (http://www.clf.org/hot/20000614.htm) In the future the communities in NH that can offer the most unique experience will benefit the most. By unique I do not mean fany condos, and five star restaurants on the main strip through town. The NH industry should begin to bank on their small mountain experience, come to where loyalty and environment still mean something to the state.