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No snow, no problem: Arizona debuts first sewage ski resort

Posting in Cities

Faced with shorter winters and warmer weather, one ski resort in Arizona has come up with a novel — if not somewhat icky — solution for keeping skiers on the slopes from November to April.

Following approval from a federal appeals court in February, Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort in Flagstaff, Arizona, will soon become the first in the world to use 100 percent sewage effluent to make artificial snow.

While the repurposed wastewater will allow the resort to stay open longer (and subsequently make more money), the idea of sewage snow has drawn criticism from both Native American tribes that feel the land the ski resort sits on is sacred and environmental groups that worry about the snow’s effect on human health.

The United States Forest Service, which owns the land where the ski resort is, attests to the safety of the manufactured snow. The group claims that the treated water meets the highest standards, is just below drinking water, and is already used on golf courses, soccer fields and parks.

And while a longer season for the ski resort could benefit all sorts of surrounding businesses in Flagstaff, such a boost to the local economy hasn’t allayed the concerns of all scientists.

“We don’t know what effect freezing and thawing is going to have on the chemical compounds,” Catherine Propper, a scientist at Northern Arizona University, told the New York Times about the endocrine-disrupting chemicals she found in Flagstaff’s water during a city-conducted study. “We don’t know what UV is going to do to them. Some of the compounds will bind to the soil; some will get into the aquifers. It is a very complicated system that we know very little about.”

Resort’s Snow Won’t Be Pure This Year; It’ll Be Sewage [NYT]

Image: Sean Hobston/Flickr

— By on October 6, 2012, 3:32 AM PST

Sarah Korones

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sarah Korones is a freelance writer based in New York. She has written for Psychology Today and Boston's Weekly Dig. She holds a degree from Tufts University. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure