A US Forest Service ski area permit holder recently filed a lawsuit after the US Forest Service revoked its Ski Area Term Special Use Permit. The agency asserted 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 stated that it did not believe allowing snowmobile use in a ski area parking lot created any risk of injury to ski area patrons and that the permittee therefore was not justified in suspending its ski area operations.
The permittee had unsuccessfully 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 take priority over the agency’s efforts to allow multiple use and a violation of those duties can result in the agency being liable for damages.
The permit holder filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims on June 21, 2021 for the loss of its structures as well as its lost profits for the remainder of the permit term.