The clear cutting has started on the San Francisco Peaks in preparation for the sewage that will be converted to artificial snow for the Arizona Snowbowl ski area. (Courtesy Dawn Dyer)

San Francisco Peaks' Snowbowl Plight Featured in The New York Times

September 28, 2012

After years of fighting to maintain the integrity of the San Francisco Peaks, the 13 tribes that have worshipped at the sacred site for thousands of years may soon see it covered in treated wastewater, in the form of snow.

The Navajo Nation, the Hopi Tribe, the Havasupai Tribe, the Hualapai Tribe, the Yavapai-Apache Nation and the White Mountain Apache Nation have been collectively fighting this measure for years, but finally lost their last court battle in February. Although the Hopi Tribe recently convinced the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study the plan’s effects on an endangered alpine plant that lives near the slopes, chances are slim that the final decision will be overturned.

Now that ski season is nearly upon us, The New York Times has weighed in with a September 26 story about the Peaks and the controversy. It starts off profiling Navajo Nation member Klee Benally, who has protested the plan vehemently for the past 10 years.

“Our culture can still be reduced to something that is less important than the profit margin on a ski resort,” Mr. Benally told the Times. “That’s a very, very hard place to be in.”

Meanwhile those anticipating a White Christmas or heeding the adage, “Don’t eat yellow snow,” may want to steer clear. The owners of the Arizona Snowbowl are about to receive the dubious distinction of “the first ski resort in the world to use 100 percent sewage effluent to make artificial snow,” as the Times points out.

Proponents of the plan used every avenue to bring the opposition down, including getting a court to impose sanctions on Howard Shanker, the pro bono attorney representing the plans would-be blockers. The sanctions were finally lifted after activist and former presidential candidate Ralph Nader stepped in, and Snowbowl’s request for Shanker to pay the company’s legal fees was denied.

Read Resort’s Snow Won’t Be Pure This Year; It’ll Be Sewage in full.

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