Controversial Fake Snow for Arizona Snowbowl

The ski resort near the city of Flagstaff, known as the Arizona Snowbowl, is located on the San Francisco Peaks and over the years they have always had to make use of a snowmaking system due to the snowfall of this area being so unpredictable. A good base of snow is needed to ensure the safety of snowboarders and skiers. Since 2005 they have been fighting a legal battle to get their latest, innovative project approved, that will see them using treated sewage water to create fake snow for their slopes. This project has run into extreme opposition from various sides, and the battle for authorization continues.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, treated sewage water is safe for usage as it has been treated, but many seem to disagree. Even though the final court decision has not been handed down, trees have been falling for the new pipeline to be installed that will transport the water from the Flagstaff treatment plant to the resort, where it will be kept in a reservoir. When the need for fake snow arises, the water will be released into the air through fans, for it to ice and form a new layer of snow. The resort commented that the use of treated sewage water will reduce the amount of water that is fit for human consumption being used to create this snow. The opposing parties to this plan have been environmentalists and Native American tribes who view the land and the inactive volcano that forms part of the resort as sacred land. One member of the Navajo tribe, Klee Benally commented: “Our identity is based on our relationship with these sacred places and this – having the source of our spiritual renewal become so contaminated and desecrated – is a direct threat to our survival.”

Environmentalists have stated that the impact to the environment through this process has not been properly explored, as treated water could still contain organic chemicals, hormones and carcinogens that could harm the soil, and in turn disrupt the habitat and threaten the survival of animal life in the area. As court cases are still pending, this new form of snow will not hit the slopes during the 2011-2012 winter sport season, but if all legalities have been resolved and Arizona Snowbowl is given the go ahead, the treated snow will hit the slopes during 2013.