Snow Bunny Brainstorms Continue: Part 3

When this little community of about 10,000 had 60,000 snow visitors in one weekend January 23-24, it nearly paralyzed the area. The mountain wasn’t prepared, nor was law enforcement. It all added up to mixed feelings about snow visitors until a better management plan is put in place. This week, the “Snow Bunny Brainstorms” continue as residents share ideas about how to be good hosts without sacrificing the rural feel of this region which attracted residents to come live here in the first place.

[Read Part 1 and Part 2]

A committee was assembled at the Synergy Summit Business Conference on February 11 of merchants interested in helping develop plans and coordinating with officials.

Deon Henry, Manager for the Holiday Inn Express Hotel said he envisions designated parking spaces and shuttles to designated legal play areas, which would also give visitors an opportunity to stop off at local shops and restaurants.

Dean Tait said that Tait Ranch is interested in becoming a designated parking and snow play area.

Several readers’ comments are nudging toward consensus in related areas. Charging some form of entry fee to help cover costs of managing the influx have been proposed by many. Jamie Guinn has worked out a detailed plan which we’ll explore in a forthcoming issue.

Insurance and liability issues are of concern to many. Here are sample comments from readers.

Don’t Resist

Jim Lumsden of Lebec writes: It appears to me that the more the mountain communities resist the snow bunny explosion, the worse it becomes. Much of it seems to stem from the very real liability concerns of private property owners. How about developing a cottage industry where

1) A community insurance pool is created to insure individual property owners who wish to join the pool specifically for snow play. Such specific insurance policies are generally quite inexpensive.

2) Each property owner [who wishes to participate] installs a simple gate-house to allow snow bunnies to enter their property for a fee. The fee could be established by agreement, or by letting competition set the rate. The gate-house would be staffed by the property owner, or by paying locals (students, scouts, etc.) to staff them.

3) Each property owner would be allocated a specific number of parking permits depending on their specific situation and facilities. Parking would have to be off the roads and on private property.

4) Local law enforcement would be enlisted to support the property owners when specific situations warrant enforcement. The burden on law enforcement would shift from overwhelming traffic control to other activities such as major littering, illegal parking, alcohol abuse and such, but the major parking problem on roadsides would be solved.

5) Simple radio communication networks with localized control centers would be set up using inexpensive and readily available FRS/GMRS radios. These control centers would keep track of where parking is still available, and act as the interface to law enforcement when problems arise.

The idea is for mountain residents to accommodate the known predictable influx rather than resist it—and in so doing to turn it into a money maker.

Many smaller ski areas operate on a call-up basis depending on opportunity rather than all season long. Why can’t the Mountain Communities?

The snow play potential is a natural resource the Mountain Communities is blessed to have. We should take advantage of it and make it work for us for the few days per year it happens.

Such controlled accommodation would minimize the impact to locals.

I think the insurance pool is key to making this work.

—Jim Lumsden

We welcome solution-oriented brainstorming on this issue, and will be running more next week. We also have some readers with strong opinions they wanted to express, perhaps to highlight how important it is to seek a management-oriented solution for the future. Here are some of those letters: Bunny Highway and Bunny Media

This is part of the February 19, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

Have an opinion on this matter? We'd like to hear from you.