Don’t eat yellow snow? You might not want to be eating white snow come ski season at Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona. Why? Because Arizona Snowbowl will become the first ski resort in the world to make artificial snow with sewage effluent, purchased from the city of Flagstaff’s sewage treatment plant, or at least that is what the The New York Times is reporting.
Not so fast, New York Times. Arizona Snowbowl GM J.R. Murray told Grind that the resort will be using “100 percent reclaimed water” and that “recycling is good,” and he isn’t so sure his resort is the first. But he did say the process is “leading edge.”
Sewage wastewater or reclaimed water–it doesn’t change the fact that the plan has caused controversy.
A coalition of 13 American Indian tribes and environmental groups have tried unsuccessfully to block the ground-breaking snowmaking plan and a resort expansion, according to the NY Times.
The Indian tribes consider the mountain sacred and view the “wastewater snow” as a desecration, and environmental groups worry about what effects the chemical compounds in the treated water will have on the soil and aquifers.
Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity was one of the plaintiffs that lost in a federal appeals court in February in an effort to block the historic plan at the resort that sits on U.S. Forest Service land.
“It’s a disaster, culturally, and environmentally,” McKinnon told the NY Times. McKinnon also told the paper he worries about the impact on the delicate alpine tundra and to human health should skiers fall on the treated snow and ingest it.
The Forest Service, however, is OK with the plan. It claims the water quality is just below drinking water and that the treated water is already being used to irrigate golf courses, soccer fields, and parks.
No question the ski resort needs the water for snowmaking. Without natural snow, snowmaking is the only resource for covering the slopes for skiing and snowboarding, winter sports that generate a reported $35 million for the local economy. Sometimes, snowmaking is the only way for resorts to manage to open for the profitable Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
Though the judicial system has paved the way for Arizona Snowbowl to move forward with the snowmaking plan, the controversy appears far from over.
More from the NY Times:
The dispute runs deeper than water. It has erupted into protests, hunger strikes, and multiple arrests and has become a political jostling point for Senator John McCain of Arizona and the Obama administration. At one point Snowbowl’s owner, Eric Borowsky, declared that if the resort lost its legal bid to make snow, “radical groups would achieve their ultimate goal of control of our nation’s resources.” [...]
Mr. [Klee] Benally [of the Navajo tribe] is undeterred. “It’s not over,” he said. “Until the Obama administration addresses the issue, we will continue to lay bodies in front of Snowbowl’s machinery.”
What kind of showdown is in store is anyone’s guess at this point. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens once it’s cold enough in Flagstaff to start making snow.
As for you skiers and snowboarders at Arizona Snowbowl once it opens, you best be keeping your mouth shut tightly if you fall this season, just in case.
Photos courtesy of Arizona Snowbowl.