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Creating ski runs in northern Sierra Nevada

Research Achievements

Creating ski runs in northern Sierra Nevada

Trainee Jennifer Burt and trainer Kevin Rice studied methods of creating ski runs in the northern Sierra Nevada and found that ski runs created by clearcutting are similar to adjacent forest in terms of in terms of plant community composition, diversity patterns and soil characteristics. In contrast, ski runs created by bulldozer grading were prone to higher erosion, reduced soil fertility and depth, and lower plant diversity.

Graded runs contain fewer irregularities and enable ski resorts to open 1-2 weeks earlier. However, the economic benefit may be offset by increased summer maintenance costs due to activities such as erosion control.

Burt pointed out that most ski resorts operate on public lands managed by the US Forest Service, which encourages multiple uses and ecosystem protection. Changing the methods used to create ski runs may reduce the impact on the environment while minimizing adverse effects.

Burt, JW and KJ Rice, 2009, Ecological Applications 19:2242-2253