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Monarch Mountain (Photo Courtesy of Powder Alliance)

Bipartisan Legislation Allows National Forests to Retain Fees Generated by Ski Areas, Representing Financial Support for Local Recreation Needs

On Thursday, Feb. 2, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet and U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) reintroduced the Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development (SHRED) Act to invest in outdoor recreation in mountain communities by enabling National Forests to retain a portion of the annual fees paid by ski areas operating within their boundaries.

Last Congress, the SHRED Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives and advanced out of the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, but never reached a vote on the senate floor.

“Colorado’s outdoor recreation economy depends on the strong partnership between ski areas, the U.S. Forest Service, and our mountain towns,” said Bennet. “The SHRED Act will provide support to our popular Colorado mountain communities and National Forests as their landscapes face increased demand. This bill has strong bipartisan support on the ground and in the House and the Senate. Congress should move to swiftly pass this legislation to support our ski areas and recreation management on our public lands.”

According to the latest estimates from the U.S. Forest Service, the legislation could bring up to $27 million in retained ski area fees to Colorado National Forests that can be used to improve the ski area program and permitting, as well as overall National Forest recreation management and community needs.

In exchange for using some of America’s most stunning forestlands, the 124 ski areas operating on Forest Service lands across the country pay fees to the Forest Service that average more than $40 million annually. The SHRED Act would establish a framework for local National Forests to retain a portion of ski fees to offset increased recreational use and support local ski permit and program administration. It also provides the Forest Service with the flexibility to direct resources where they are needed the most.

Included in the legislation:

  • Keeps Ski Fees Local — By establishing a Ski Area Fee Retention Account to retain the fees that ski areas pay to the Forest Service. For National Forests that generate ski fees, 80 percent of those fees are available for authorized uses at the local National Forest. The remaining 20 percent of those fees would be available to assist any National Forests with winter or broad recreation needs.
  • Supports Winter Recreation: In each forest, 75 percent of the retained funds are directly available to support the Forest Service Ski Area Program and permitting needs, process proposals for ski area improvement projects, provide information for visitors and prepare for wildfire. Any excess funds can be directed to other National Forests with winter or broad recreation needs.
  • Addresses Broad Recreation Needs: In each forest, 25 percent of the retained funds are available to support a broad set of year-round local recreation management and community needs, including special use permit administration, visitor services, trailhead improvements, facility maintenance, search and rescue activities, avalanche information and education, habitat restoration at recreation sites, and affordable workforce housing. This set-aside would dramatically increase some Forest Service unit’s budgets to meet the growing visitation and demand for outdoor recreation.

The SHRED Act is supported by the National Ski Area Association and its 124 member ski areas operating on public lands, Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Colorado Ski Country USA, Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, Colorado Association of Ski Towns, America Outdoors Association, Vail Resorts, and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

The bill text is available HERE. A one-page summary of the bill is available HERE.