Resort Report: More fires, July 4 openings and conservation clashes

A forest fire raging in New Mexico's Sangre de Cristo Mountains is only two miles from the Santa Fe Ski Basin. Yet while the Southwest burns, areas from Colorado to Oregon are announcing plans to re-open for the Fourth of July weekend. The season of fire and ice continues in this week's Resort Report.

The Santa Fe Ski Basin remains unscathed by a massive wildfire burning in the Pecos Wilderness about two miles north of the New Mexico ski area. The Pacheco Fire, which began around 1 p.m. on June 18, 2011, has scorched more than 4,000 acres of forest in just three days. Whipped by steady winds and feeding on drought-stricken ponderosa pine and conifer, the blaze has resulted in crowning on several occasions, igniting treetops in fiery plumes that can be seen from the city of Santa Fe.

Despite the pressure on fire suppression resources in the Southwest, with several fires burning in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Georgia, nearly 500 firefighters have been deployed to fight the Pacheco Fire. Air tankers and helicopters have also been made available, but have often been grounded because of the winds. The fire has continued north, away from the ski area, and has not destroyed any structures yet. At press time it remained 0 percent contained.

A-Basin to stay open through July 4th weekend

Talk about fire and ice; Arapahoe Basin will keep the lifts turning for the July 4 weekend. The ski area announced the decision on Sunday, June 19, and was hit with six inches of fresh powder the next morning. The area presently has a base of 52-inches, with two lifts serving 21 trails. This will be the first time “The Basin” has stayed open through July 4 since 1997

Bachelor also offers 4th of July turns

Mt. Bachelor has also announced it will open for skiing and snowboarding Saturday, July 2 through Monday, July 4, with intermediate and advanced skiing from the summit of the mountain. Regular summer operations will begin as planned on Friday, July 1st. After a record-breaking snowfall season of 665-inches, upper elevations retain a deep snowpack, according to Marketing Director Andy Goggins. He added that the first 250 skiers and snowboarders purchasing tickets each day will receive a commemorative a 4th of July t-shirt celebrating the occasion.

Lutsen already drinking more than its fair share

Seems Minnesota’s Lutsen Mountain ski resort has been exceeding its water allotment for the past decade. The area recently made news after environmentalists and fly-fishermen reacted angrily to Gov. Mark Dayton’s signing of a law to allow the area to pull more water from the Poplar River. Opponents are concerned the reduced river depth will result in the river’s fish population freezing in the winter. But The Greenwich Time reported that State officials have admitted to allowing the area to violate its existing permits for years. The paper reports that Department of Natural Resources staff said the area’s economic significance was a factor in no citations being issued for the violations.

In other news…

The Lands Council environmental group is challenging the Washington State Park and Recreation Commission’s decision to reclassify part of Mount Spokane State Park’s undeveloped terrain as suitable for a ski area expansion…A thick blanket of ash left on Argentina’s ski slopes from the eruption of a volcano could devastate the ski season according to reports from South America…France's state development bank has signed a deal to help Russia develop the North Caucasus region into a ski haven. This despite the Islamist insurgency in the area which resulted in three ski tourists being murdered in February…And mild temperatures in New Zealand have pushed back the opening of ski as Turoa, Whakapapa and Mt. Ruapehu until July 1 at the earliest.

--Peter Kray

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