Resorts, business council work to eradicate erosion |

Resorts, business council work to eradicate erosion

Photo by Ryan Salm/Sierra SunNorthstar-at-Tahoe ski resort is part of an effort to reduce erosion that occurs on treeless ski runs.

For years ski resorts’ attempts to stem erosion on their broad, treeless ski runs met varied success.

But now resort managers can consult “The Sediment Source Control Handbook,” recently released by the Truckee-based Sierra Business Council, to see what has been proven to reduce erosion and sediment to the watershed.

In developing the handbook the business council worked with ski resorts, state agencies and scientists to enter virtually uncharted territory.

“There has been relatively little [research] done at this elevation,” said Paquita Bath, Sierra Business Council vice president.

The three groups, each a critical link in controlling erosion, did not see eye-to-eye before the coming together to work on the handbook, Bath said.

But that changed as the group began exchanging strategies, ideas and practices, said John Loomis, director of operations for Northstar-at-Tahoe.

“The big deal I think is we’ve got all the players at the table talking about what’s working and what’s not working,” Loomis said.

Because of the lack of research, ski resorts were often putting time into re-vegetation practices that had little effect on sediment, Bath said.

“People often equate vegetation with sediment source control, but what we are finding is just because you are growing grass doesn’t mean that you are controlling sediment,” she said.

Loomis, who was part of the research included in the handbook, said Northstar has been experimenting with seed mixes and fertilizers, while using compost, wood chips and pine needles to reduce sediment.

“Some of the things that are in [the handbook] we are convinced work well,” Loomis said.

The added research on alpine erosion, which has been much more minimal than studies on timber and agriculture land, will help ski resorts tailor their activities to the most effective methods, Loomis said.

“No one had really paid close attention to a mountain-environment-specific situation,” Loomis said. “We’ve really got the opportunity to bring some science to this and say ‘this is what success looks like.'”

Any progress in erosion in the Truckee River watershed is welcome since the Truckee River has been federally listed as impaired by sediment carried in the water. And developers of the handbook say its strategies can be used beyond ski resorts by anyone who disturbs soil in a high-elevation environment.

The research that has gone into the publication, which was carried out at Northstar-at-Tahoe, Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain, is already being put to use in some locations with success, said Bath.

“I think it is already working,” she said.

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