SHRED Act would keep ski fees local, support Tahoe resorts

Snowboarder Raph Louis.
Javier Silva / Tahoe Daily Tribune

STATELINE, Nev. — New legislation recently introduced would enable the USDA Forest Service to retain some fees paid annually by ski areas and use it for local projects.

U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) recently joined Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) in introducing the Ski Hill Resources for Economic Development Act — the SHRED Act — that would support local resorts that are operating within Forest Service boundaries by keeping ski fees local and using those funds for local year-round recreation opportunities and to further boost local gateway economies. 

“Lake Tahoe has some of the best skiing in the country and I know how important they are to our outdoor recreation economy,” said Cortez Masto in a news release. “After the record winter we’ve seen this year, it’s more important than ever that the revenue generated by our local resorts stays in the Tahoe Basin to support our forests and our outdoor recreation economies.”

The senator, herself, skis and has fond memories of skiing in Tahoe while she was a student at the University of Nevada, Reno.

There are 124 ski areas operating on Forest Service lands across the country that pay fees to the Forest Service, which averages over $40 million annually. Ski areas on National Forest System lands support about 64,000 full- and part-time jobs nationwide. 

Ski resorts in Lake Tahoe fall under the management of four different Forest Service offices. Tahoe National Forest has Palisades Tahoe (including Alpine), Boreal Mountain California, Sugar Bowl Resort, Donner Ski Ranch and Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort. Rents from those resorts total about $500,000 a year. 

The Lake Tahoe Basin Management oversees land that is home to Heavenly Mountain Resort, Homewood Mountain Resort, Diamond Peak Ski Resort and Northstar California, while Eldorado National Forest is home to Sierra-at-Tahoe and Kirkwood Mountain Resort. 

The Eldorado NF and LTBMU total an average of $2.7 million annually in rent from ski resorts located on National Forest System Land under special use permits. 

California ski resorts alone pay about $10 million a year in rent. These rents currently go to the U.S. Treasury.

“Revenue to the federal Treasury from ski areas has been going up; in 2022, revenue was more than $57 million. That’s more revenue than from any other activity on the National Forest System — more than timber and all other recreation special uses combined,” said Lisa Herron, public affairs specialist for LTBMU. “More importantly, these same ski areas contribute to the national economy. In California alone, they contributed about $1.8 billion in 2021-2022 to the California gross domestic product.”

Winter mountain sports is a growing industry. Every five years, the National Visitor Use Monitoring program surveys the mountain usage. The 2017 survey of Eldorado NF showed approximately 460,000 annual visits for downhill skiing and the 2020 survey of LTBMU showed approximately 940,000. 

The SHRED Act would establish a framework for local National Forests to retain a portion of ski fees to offset increased recreational use and support local ski permit and program administration. The SHRED Act also provides the Forest Service with flexibility to direct resources where they are needed the most. Specifically, it would:

  1. Keep Ski Fees Local: By establishing a Ski Area Fee Retention Account to retain the fees that ski areas pay to the Forest Service. For National Forests that generate ski fees, 80% of those fees are available for authorized uses at the local National Forest. The remaining 20% of those fees would be available to assist any National Forest with winter or broad recreation needs. 
  2. Support Winter Recreation: In each forest, 75% of the retained funds are directly available to support the Forest Service Ski Area Program and permitting needs, process proposals for ski area improvement projects, provide information for visitors and prepare for wildfire. Any excess funds can be directed to other National Forests with winter or broad recreation needs. 
  3. Address Broad Recreation Needs: In each forest, 25% of the retained funds are available to support a broad set of year-round local recreation management and community needs, including special use permit administration, visitor services, trailhead improvements, facility maintenance, search and rescue activities, avalanche information and education, habitat restoration at recreation sites and affordable workforce housing. This set-aside would dramatically increase some Forest Service unit’s budgets to meet the growing visitation and demand for outdoor recreation.

A spokesperson for Tahoe National Forest said this concept has been in the works for many years but they are hopeful that with the current bipartisan support, it will gain more traction.

Cortez Masto has been a champion for Lake Tahoe and Nevada’s outdoor recreation economy, which supports thousands of local jobs and delivers $4.9 billion to the state each year. She passed critical legislation to permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund which protects public lands in Nevada and across the country, and delivered critical funding to protect Lake Tahoe in the bipartisan infrastructure law.

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