Scattered across various online skiing forums, overheard in lift lines, and discussed on the skin track are conversations about the problems facing skiing in the PNW and potential solutions for the future. I have been participant to my fair share of these but they have always felt to me as being light on specific details and lacking a unified vision. As such, the desire was created to assess the depth of the problems and feasibility of the solutions to the problems we face around access to our mountains. The end goal being the establishment of my vision for the future of skiing in the PNW.
Previously in this series I wrote about how the Cascades snowpack is responding to climate change, what prevented expansion of our ski areas, and where our existing ski areas could expand. The theme of these being that skiing in the PNW is facing the following major issues:
- Washington’s rapidly growing population causing overcrowding at existing ski areas
- Corporate consolidation leading to ski area owners not having the sport’s best short or long term interests in mind
- Climate change causing some existing areas to become nonviable in the foreseeable future
- The lack of potential expansion locations due to land use restrictions
The conclusion of all this being that in order to meet demand while keeping our mountains and winter recreation accessible Washington needs to consider the possibility of an entirely new ski area. Specifically, there are four areas of focus that would go a long way to providing sufficient access not just for mechanized skiers, but backcountry skiers, snowshoers, and general snow play (sledding for children and families):
- Expansions of existing ski areas (see my previous post for details on this point)
- Creation of a new ski area to provide competition to the large ski corporations
- Winter maintenance to high elevation trailheads for ski touring, snowshoeing, and sledding
- Increased focus on winter recreation community groups for ongoing advocacy
This final post attempts to answer the feasibility of doing so. Mainly, why is a new ski area needed, where could it be located, how would it be funded, and how would it operate?