Friday, February 21, 2014

This Week in Outdoor Policy - February 21st

Tom Flynn tracks policy related to conservation and recreation for the Outdoor Alliance. Most Fridays, he summarizes the week’s top outdoor policy related headlines. With questions, news tips and angry hate mail, email him at tom [at] outdooralliance [dot] net.

Ski Areas Not Responsible for Avalanches?
Here’s a worrying idea. A Colorado court recently found that ski areas are not responsible for inbounds avalanches. The ruling came in the case of a skier killed in a slide at Winter Park back in 2012. The court argued that avalanches are an inherent risk of skiing inbounds, because they result from changes in snow, weather and terrain, all of which ski areas are already not responsible for. Though that definition of an avalanche is, strictly speaking, true, it seems like a stretch. It is a bit like arguing that Disneyland isn’t responsible for the weather, so it’s not their fault when a roller coaster rusts and breaks. Most skiers assume it is the resort’s job to prevent avalanches, just like it is an amusement park’s job to maintain rides. Why else would resorts close and bomb slopes? In fact, some laws in other states clearly say that avalanches are not an assumed risk on open slopes. With 16 people killed in avalanches in the US so far this season, ski areas are a welcome safe haven. Though there are exceptions, where skiers wear avalanche beacons at resorts, if this ruling stands, it could mean big changes for inbounds skiing in Colorado.

New Conservation in the West Poll ReleasedEvery year, Colorado College polls Western voters for their views on conservation. This year’s just released poll is not altogether surprising – unless you are a certain breed of Western politician, in which case you find yourself at odds with huge swaths of voters. The bipartisan survey in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and Montana found that nearly 85% of voters believe closing national parks and forests hurts the economy, and that public lands should receive adequate funding. A similarly overwhelming majority, 72%, would be less likely to vote for someone that wants to sell off public lands. The main takeaway, revealed yet again? Public lands matter, no matter your political leaning. A full 95% of respondents visited public land in the last year, and most care deeply about them. Those elected officials that played a part in closing National Parks during the government shutdown, that seek to defund land management agencies at every turn, and that push for state ownership of public lands – take note.

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