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Forest Service finalizes rules for use of its ski slopes

The U.S. Forest Service (USFS) has issued final directives for additional recreational activities that can take place around ski areas in national forests. USFS issued the directives in the Federal Register on Thursday, April 17. The directives implement the amendments to the Ski Area Recreational Opportunity Enhancement Act approved in 2011.

The directives take effect immediately. The are designed to help land management officials determine whether proposed activities for off-season or year-round activities comply with the law, such as hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter; and mountain biking, canopy tours and ziplining in summer. They apply at the 122 ski areas in national forests. USFS reports that in recent years, people have been using ski area for more off-season recreational activities.

The directives do not allow amusement park-type concessions such as merry-go-rounds, Ferris wheels, miniature train rides, bumper cars, water slides, miniature golf courses and roller coasters. USFS determined that these activities don't comply with the law. In fact, the original law specifically does not permit amusement parks in national forests. USFS decided to allow ziplines, however, acknowledging that they could be considered an amusement. It did so because ziplining can help people enjoy nature, which carousels don't.

USFS will allow chair lifts and other transport typical to ski lifts. Activities allowed must be “natural-resource based.” Activities such as segway tours, wall climbing and disc golf will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

USFS figures that adding more recreational activities would encourage more people to get out and enjoy the national forests. Last year, it published and interim directive and rules regarding aspects of the 2011 law that did not get discretion over.

The directive also clarifies that contractors may feature their names and logos on vehicles they use in the forests. Such vehicles will not be barred under rules regarding advertising in national forests. USFS declined requests to change other advertising rules on the grounds that they go beyond the scope of the directives at hand.