The US Forest Service recently revoked a Ski Area Term Special Use Permit based on the agency’s assertion that the permittee had failed to operate for at least 90 days per year. The permittee, however, had decided not to operate due to the fact that the Forest Service was allowing extensive snowmobile activity in the ski area’s small parking lot and endangering its patrons. The Forest Service had asserted that it does not believe allowing snowmobile use in a ski area parking lot creates any risk of injury to ski area patrons and that the permittee therefore was not justified in suspending its ski area operations.
The permittee has appealed the revocation decision. In its appeal, the permittee noted that the National Ski Areas Association had characterized the agency’s lack of concern over skier safety as “breathtaking.” It also noted that its insurance agent had found that allowing snowmobiling in a ski area parking lot created “a significant risk to pedestrians and guests who are using the ski resort as customers.” In addition, the permit holder pointed out that there are numerous parking areas nearby which permit snowmobilers the ability to access the trails in the area. In its responsive statement, the Forest Service asserted that public safety is a priority for the agency, but that there was no evidence that commingling snowmobiling and ski area parking impacted the public safety. The agency also noted its goal of balancing multiple uses in the Forest, to which the permit holder noted that courts have found that the agency’s duties to its term permit holders are not eliminated by the agency’s efforts to allow multiple use and a violation of those duties can result in the agency being liable for damages.