Steamboat Mountain Resort, a popular resort in Colorado’s Park Range, experienced a severe sewage leak on March 17th. The full extent of the damage caused by the spill will not be fully discovered until after the snowpack on the mountain fully melts.
The spill was initially discovered when ski patrol noticed an area of about five by fifteen feet of soil and water overflowing on “Vagabond,” a popular blue run. The run was immediately closed to assess and mitigate future damage, which unfortunately proved difficult due to a large amount of recent snowfall and terrain. It has been estimated that 5,000 and 10,000 gallons of sewage flowed out of the ground and down the mountain before the spill was fully patched.
The source of the spill was determined to be a six-inch pipe about 3,500 feet east, originating from the slope maintenance building near the base of Thunderhead Express. The water had been collected from the on-mountain dining areas and experienced minimal flow outside the usual 9 AM – 4 PM lift operation hours. Crews successfully determined the cause of the harmful spill, pointing to a ball of roots and other plant material that became lodged in the pipe and caused breakage. On March 19th, two days later, a successful bypass was installed. Following this, a report was filed with the State Department of Public Health and Environment on March 20th. The U.S. Forest Service, Mt. Werner Water, and Routt County Environmental Health were also alerted.
There are still more questions than answers regarding the issue at this time. Aaron Voos, the public affairs specialist with the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, commented on the situation in an article that originally appeared in the Steamboat Pilot. “At that time and since then, we’ve been working with them to ensure they are dealing with it within the terms of their permits that they have to operate on Forest (Service Land). There still is a lot of evaluation and assessment that is ongoing and needs to happen. It’ll probably take a while to see the impact’s severity.”
It is unsettling to see the environment have harm inflicted on it due to the ski industry, as we, as skiers and snowboarders, rely on its health and prosperity to keep engaging in the activity we all love so much in the future. Hopefully, the issue will result in as minor damage as possible for everyone involved. However, to the resort’s credit, they were not assessed any penalties due to possessing a solid environmental track record and reporting the issue promptly.