Field Trip - Arizona Snowbowl on the Sacred San Francisco Peaks
Perched into the northwestern side of the San Francisco Peaks is the Arizona Snowbowl, the only ski resort for hundreds of miles and one of the nation’s oldest ski resorts.
The San Francisco Peaks are considered sacred by thirteen local Native
American tribes, some of whom use the mountain for gathering special plants
or herbs for ceremonial use. To the Navajo, the mountain is the western
peak of the four sacred mountains, marking their traditional territory.
Traditional Navajo stories associate the mountain to high spiritual significance
and importance. Some people locally, native and non-native, believe that
any form of development on the mountain is sacrilegious.
Students went to Snowbowl in order to see what is being proposed for the Snowbowl expansion. Going to the ski resort gave students the opportunity to listen to and question the key players involved in making the decisions concerning expansion of Snowbowl. Snowbowl Manager JR Murray spoke about why he felt the ski operation is important to the people of northern Arizona, mainly addressing the economic and recreational ramifications. After he spoke, a Forest Service representative explained how the Forest Service is required to receive public comment before deciding about development on public land.
The National Environmental Policy
Act requires that the resort submit their proposal to the Forest Service
for approval before any development can take place. Developers on public
lands must first perform an environmental impact statement, considering
potential impacts on the area’s ecology. The Forest Service also
held public forums in Flagstaff and in the nearby tribal nations to get
a better understanding of how the public feels about this development.