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Abandoned Ski Resorts and their Environmental Impact

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Saw this study from UC Davis today about the effect that trail clearing has on recovery after a ski resort is abandoned. They studied 6 abandoned ski resorts in California (Powder Bowl, Plavada, Tannenbaum, Edelweiss, Iron Mountain and Echo Summit) which ranged from 10-43 years of abandonment. The difference in recovery time based on how a run was created was immense. This image shows a difference:

 

 

I thought this quote--if it's ideals are taken to fruition--could have some interesting impacts on current ski areas.

 

Quote:
 “As more ski areas become abandoned, there should be some effort taken to actively restore graded ski slopes,” said lead author Jennifer Burt, a UC Davis doctoral student at the time of the study and currently a restoration ecologist at AECOM Environment in Sacramento. “These are large land areas in some cases and, as we’re seeing, they don’t recover on their own.”
 
“We’re in this time of visible climate change,” said co-author Jeffrey Clary, reserve manager of Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve in the UC Davis Natural Reserve System. “Land uses we once thought were permanent, we’re now seeing are likely not. As a land manager, to me, it only makes sense to look at a longer-term picture.”
post #2 of 17
Thread Starter 

@Cirquerider this one seems right up your alley of expertise. 

post #3 of 17

But doesn't SOMEONE dream of reopening the abandoned area ?

post #4 of 17

Any ski areas grading these days without hauling in topsoil and planting grass or something will likely not be around long. Runoff can be a bigger headache than most terrain unpleasantness. 

 

I would think that the best surface for a snowpack is plants, not rocks.

post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Snowfan View Post
 

Any ski areas grading these days without hauling in topsoil and planting grass or something will likely not be around long. Runoff can be a bigger headache than most terrain unpleasantness. 

 

I would think that the best surface for a snowpack is plants, not rocks.

 

 

Pics of Sundown at CT newest trail, they cut it (and graded) last year.  Netting was placed to prevent the run off and to allow the grass to grow. 

 

 

 

 

It turned into this last season.

post #6 of 17

I was a hang glider pilot for many years and flying over ski resorts in summer gave me a horrifying look at the damage done especially in high altitude resorts where the growing season is short.

 

Extending the season with snow cannons, packing the snow down to make it last longer and applying chemicals has resulted in swathes of bare earth and of course increased risk of mud slides in heavy rain due to loss of ground cover.

 

But another and potentially even more damaging sport use is downhill mountain biking. The high contact pressure creates run off gullies and rapid erosion. Again clearly visible from the air. 

 

The Swiss are taking steps to get ground cover on slopes but for some reason have had particularly devastating slides. 

post #7 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by tylrwnzl View Post
 

Saw this study from UC Davis today about the effect that trail clearing has on recovery after a ski resort is abandoned. They studied 6 abandoned ski resorts in California (Powder Bowl, Plavada, Tannenbaum, Edelweiss, Iron Mountain and Echo Summit) which ranged from 10-43 years of abandonment. The difference in recovery time based on how a run was created was immense. This image shows a difference:

 

 

I thought this quote--if it's ideals are taken to fruition--could have some interesting impacts on current ski areas.

 

We have quite a few abandoned areas in Colorado. I've hiked a couple of them in the summer and it looks exactly like the photos you posted. Some runs graded, some cleared. I guess "sculpting" runs was a big thing back in the 60's and 70's. Grading runs creates an incredible amount of damage that in some cases may not recover in a lifetime. If that damage is up in the tundra, it will never recover.

post #8 of 17

Nothing compared to the devastation Asian Beetles have done in places like Jackson Hole and elsewhere.  And my suburb of Chicago for that matter.

post #9 of 17

Looks like the long term fire risk is a lot lower for the graded run - might be a plus in CA

post #10 of 17

@Tylrwnzl, ski area recovery is a drop in the bucket compared to fire damage in the Sierra.  How fast a slope recovers is dependent on soil conditions, steepness, aspect and altitude.  This article looks like a convenient stage for someone to claim global warming is going to close ski areas, and we ought to do something about it, and to argue against grading. 

 

Some slopes are very quickly revegetated as they are lower in elevation, protected, and get adequate moisture.  Others were scree fields on steep pitches with no soil, and will always be scree fields.  Restoration and tree planting is something that I have not seen on the older slopes like Iron Mountain or Echo Summit, but those runs are heavily overgrown and have trees of a size consistent with the years of abandonment.  If the restoration is managed, it could come back very quickly, and graded slopes actually make equipment access and planting easier.

 

Modern ski ares are required to manage erosion and stormwater quality.  I suspect USFS has restoration and recovery requirements as part of their use permits today.  Ski areas from the 70s not so much.  As far as this U.C. Davis study goes, I don't think we got our money's worth.

post #11 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirquerider View Post
 

@Tylrwnzl, ski area recovery is a drop in the bucket compared to fire damage in the Sierra.  How fast a slope recovers is dependent on soil conditions, steepness, aspect and altitude.  This article looks like a convenient stage for someone to claim global warming is going to close ski areas, and we ought to do something about it, and to argue against grading. 

 

Some slopes are very quickly revegetated as they are lower in elevation, protected, and get adequate moisture.  Others were scree fields on steep pitches with no soil, and will always be scree fields.  Restoration and tree planting is something that I have not seen on the older slopes like Iron Mountain or Echo Summit, but those runs are heavily overgrown and have trees of a size consistent with the years of abandonment.  If the restoration is managed, it could come back very quickly, and graded slopes actually make equipment access and planting easier.

 

Modern ski ares are required to manage erosion and stormwater quality.  I suspect USFS has restoration and recovery requirements as part of their use permits today.  Ski areas from the 70s not so much.  As far as this U.C. Davis study goes, I don't think we got our money's worth.

 

Great insights Tom! Thanks!

post #12 of 17

As already mentioned I was going to say that climate zone and aspect are the biggest factors to reforestation. Or.....we could act like overly reactive and biased enviro nuts and claim that ski runs are the death of us all the while driving 30k+ cars and living in 2000+ sq ft. homes.

post #13 of 17

Schools such as UC Davis rely on federal funding. Basically, if the federal level wants to drop the hammer on something, they have to funds to do so,   

 

 

 

post #14 of 17

Every single funding agency has it's particular agenda - just because one group has more money than others doesn't necessarily mean the have the most dubious/nefarious agenda.  While certainly not immune to this problem, one could argue that  the feds's biases tend to even out in the long run because they're so big (left hand vs right kind of thing).  I definitely would cast a much more  suspicious eye on industry funded projects in environmental research.  

post #15 of 17

page 14 & 15 if you want to see the numbers.

 

https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43227.pdf

post #16 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by jack97 View Post
 

Schools such as UC Davis rely on federal funding. Basically, if the federal level wants to drop the hammer on something, they have to funds to do so,

 

 

 

The same could be said about the private sector. Private interests give endowments to colleges all of the time, but all of their motivations are all honorable right?

post #17 of 17

All environmental agendas today are political, and have economic interests on both sides of any issue.  "Science' has been simply co-opted to suit the best propagandists. 

 

Would it surprise you to know that is the government?

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