LAKE TAHOE (AP) — Abandoned ski areas with cleared runs are recovering faster than those that were graded.
A study by University of California, Davis ecologists Jennifer Burt and Jeffrey Clary says the common practice of using machines to take out vegetation, boulders and a large amount of topsoil reduces the area’s ability to absorb rainfall and sustain healthy plant growth, the Sierra Sun reported).
The study looked at six out-of-use ski areas: the Powder Bowl/Deer Park Ski Area near Alpine Meadows; Plavada at Soda Springs; Tannenbaum near Galena; Edelweiss near Twin Bridges; as well as Echo Summit and Iron Mountain.
Burt was a doctoral student at the time of the study, and now works in Sacramento. She said clearing areas leaves roots intact and can make the oldest abandoned runs almost indistinguishable from the surrounding vegetation.
She said resorts with graded runs are able to open about two weeks earlier than cleared ski areas.
“There is some potential to restore some levels of soil function,” she continued. “It’s not going to be as good as it would be if you hadn’t graded in the first place, but you can reduce it by adding amendments (such as compost or manure) to the soil — it’s expensive to do, but it’s worthwhile in the long run.”
Burt and Clary’s report was published Dec. 16 in the Journal of Applied Ecology.