Chris Weiss's Blog

Yellow Snow: Skiing on Sewage in Arizona

created at: 2011/08/23

Arizona: It's more likely to bring to mind cacti and 120-degree days than snow and skiing. But the state does have a handful of ski resorts spread throughout its mountains.

That first thought isn't entirely wrong, though--skiing in a hot, desert-y state in the southwest doesn't provide the same bounty of snow as skiing farther north. Despite an elevation that tops out at 11,500 feet, Arizona Snowball receives a modest 260 inches per year (by resort numbers) and must augment finicky Mother Nature with snowmaking.

Years ago, the resort came up with a new solution for making the fluff: repurposed sewage water. The resort received permission from the US Forest Service back in 2005, and is currently building a pipeline to pump some 180 gallons per season from nearby Flagstaff.

Of course, the water has been treated, but still....YUUUCKK! Who really wants to replace pristine snow with frozen toilet water? Besides the gross factor, the consequences appear dubious at best. No one has ever sourced 100 percent treated sewage for snowmaking, and and a study by Dr. Catherine Propper, a professor of biological sciences at Northern Arizona University, found that the cleaned Flagstaff bowl water contains nasties like hormones, industrial pollutants and carcinogens. Happy Trails!

To complicate the matter, more than a dozen Native American tribes consider the mountain range to be sacred ground. And Snowbowl plans to $#!@ all over it.

Lawsuits threaten to stifle the project, but Snowbowl is clearing away trees and getting ready to lay pipe. It sounds like it's trying to get things done before the courts can officially step in.

If you were considering a Snowbowl season pass this year, I might recommend a few trips to Taos or Utah instead.

SnowBOWL jokes should be all the rage next season, though.

Mother Jones via Wend

Photo: Super Sok

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