Navajos May Try to Buy Popular Arizona Ski Resort

Felicia Fonseca, Comcast News, October 22, 2009

The Navajo Nation may try to buy a popular Arizona ski resort to stop snowmaking on one of the tribe’s most sacred mountains, the San Francisco Peaks.

The Navajo Nation Council voted Wednesday to consider legislation that would allow the tribe to secure an appraisal and negotiate with the partners who own the Arizona Snowbowl outside Flagstaff.

The Navajo and several other tribes fought in court for several years to stop the Snowbowl’s plan to use reclaimed wastewater to make snow. Tribes have said the practice would desecrate the land they hold sacred and infringe on their religious beliefs. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down the tribes’ final appeal in June, and the resort’s owners plan to begin adding the snowmaking equipment next year.

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The council could take a final vote on the legislation later this week during its fall session.

The Arizona Snowbowl Limited Partnership purchased the ski resort in 1992 for $4 million. Owner Eric Borowsky said late Wednesday that it is not for sale. But he said he has an obligation as a general partner to submit any valid offers to the limited partners for a vote.

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Maxx’s bill doesn’t include a price the tribe would be willing to pay for the Snowbowl. If a purchase is ultimately made, the money likely would come from the tribe’s Land Acquisition Fund, said Delegate Jonathan Nez, who sits on the council’s Budget and Finance Committee.

The fund was developed to consolidate the checkerboard of Indian and non-Indian land around the reservation. Tribal officials used it to finance the development of the Navajo Nation’s first casino just outside Gallup, N.M.

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Snowbowl officials have said the snowmaking equipment is necessary to ensure the survival of the ski area, which opened in 1937 and has struggled with short seasons because of a lack of snow. The ski resort plans to add a fifth chair lift, spray man-made snow and clear about 100 acres of forest to extend its ski season.

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