Sacred Powder

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Travel
Arizona Snowbowl

It's been a big year for the otherwise sleepy 127-acre Arizona Snowbowl resort, just outside Flagstaff. Last fall, in an effort to compensate for the ski area's inconsistent snowfall (in 2001—02 it was open only four days), mountain managers went public with a proposal to dust the resort's 2,300 vertical feet with reclaimed wastewater—as in the stuff that's swirling around in the local sewage plant. Several Arizona tribes—among them the Navajo and Hopi—filed a federal suit, citing the potential for irreversible environmental damage to sacred grounds.

Meantime, as if on cue, a series of whopper storms barreled across the Southwest, dropping a record-tying 460 inches of the soft-and-light, temporarily quelling talk of lousy snow years. In one four-day period, Snowbowl received more than four feet. "I've seen bigger dumps, but this season was the most consistent, says Snowbowl skier Josh Langdon (pictured). "The old locals said they've never seen it that good. Still, with a court date set for later this month, neither side is backing down. "This really goes to the heart of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, says Andy Bessler of the Sierra Club, which is also suing Snowbowl. "It's like if a Christian got word of a resort being built on Mount Sinai. Wait a second...Sinai? Homes, that would be sick!

OCTOBER 2006

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