Skiing and the Shutdown
How Washington's stalemate is cutting into your ski time
Introducing a semi-regular column by POWDER Correspondent and general smug-artist Heather Hansman
By now the government shutdown—the third longest in history—has been going on long enough that your furloughed friends have played all the day-drinking games they know and the guys over at the International Monetary Fund are calling bullshit. Regardless of your opinions about the Affordable Care Act, budget resolutions, and Sniffles McGillicuddy, we can assume bi-partisan support for skiing. Losing the Panda Cam is one thing, but if the shutdown continues for much longer, it’s going to cut into your ski time. And that’s crossing the line. A-Basin is open, and at this rate, most of the ski resorts in the West will have their act together before the government does. So what does that mean for your ski season?
Weather forecasting is minimized
The National Weather Service furloughed many of its employees, just holding on to the ones who “protect against a significant and imminent threat to the safety of human life and property” and asking some to work for free. The weathermen are getting so desperate that the Alaskan office resorted to posting a secret encoded message in their forecast begging to be paid. Regardless if some major storms are brewing, with the NOAA site and daily forecasts down, it’s impossible to track early season storms. How are you supposed to know if it snowed an inch in Little Cottonwood when you come up against this:
We can’t access public lands
People are already skiing (and posting smugstagrams of their core shots and inch-deep tracks) early-season snow in Colorado and Washington, but if you’re backcountry skiing on public land or in a national park, there’s a good chance you’re not supposed to be there. The levels of enforcement vary and some states, which can fund recreation on their own, have lobbied to re-open parks, as in the case of Rocky Mountain National Park. But the non-essential branches of the Department of Interior, Forest Service, and BLM—which likely manage the land you’re skiing on, especially in the West—are all still shut down. And if you’re breaking the law and still getting out there, you better not get hurt.
The environment? Apparently not that important
Most EPA workers (93.5 percent) are furloughed, meaning no one is regulating the Clean Water or Clean Air Act. And, in Antarctica, climate change research projects have been stalled. This is prime season for research at the bottom of the world, but because of the delay, a lot of projects scheduled for this year are getting pushed until next. Don’t worry though, you’ll be able to ski forever at this privately funded indoor mall/ski resort. You weren’t that into snow, were you?
Seasonal workers aren’t getting paid
Ski season jobs are just that—seasonal—and a lot of the people who work on the hill in the winter work in the tourism industry surrounding national parks for most of the summer. Your average Jackson Hole ski bum probably makes most of his yearly income off summer park tourists, not skiers. The Coalition of National Park Service Retirees is estimating that the park-based recreation industry has taken a $1 billion loss, and that includes your ski patroller’s off-season paycheck. Those mountain towns that depend on summer tourism as well as winter visitors are getting hit hard.
International travel bunged up
Planning that Chamonix trip you’ve always dreamed of? Hope you’ve already got your passport squared away. The State Department is technically still processing passports and visas (because they collect fees on them, obvs), but because many passport offices are housed in closed government buildings, some of them aren’t operating, and a lot of the ones that are open are backlogged.
No one is listening to our lobbyists
The shutdown was poorly timed for winter’s favorite advocacy group, Protect Our Winters. They’d rallied a group of athletes to go to Washington on Tuesday, October 1 to promote Obama’s climate plan and the carbon pollution standard it includes. They showed up to locked doors and empty offices. While they were still able to talk to with some senators from skiing states like Montana and Maine, their meetings with the EPA and the Council on Environmental Quality were canceled.
Beer production stopped
This is getting serious, you guys. Apparently beer labels are federally regulated, and the office that issues those labels is closed. Breweries can’t release any new beers. For the love of seasonal beer, pass a dang budget already.
On that note, probably time to drunk dial congress.
Add a comment