Gallery: Arizona Ski Resort to Make Snow From Human Waste


We love hitting the slopes: the fresh air, the high speeds, the great outdoors – it’s fantastic. However, we’re not sure if we’d enjoy it as much if we knew that if we were to crash, we would be lying face down in recycled sewage. But news is this end could soon become a reality, as owners of a ski resort in Flagstaff, Arizona have plans to make artifical snow using 180 million gallons of ‘sewage effluent’.

The Snowbowl Ski Resort is found at 12,000 feet in the San Francisco Peaks. Its owners have sought snowmaking solutions in order to compensate for the snowfall fluctuations that occur in the arid desert state. They first came up with the idea in 1979, but unsurprisingly faced community uproar about the plan to create snow from human waste. Times have now changed.

In 2005, the Forest Service approved a request from the ski resort in order to expand its operations and begin making fake snow. Why the U-turn after all this time? In order to create a “reliable and consistent operating season.”

The snow will be created from reclaimed water from the city of Flagstaff’s wastewater treatment plants. The ski resort is planning on building a pipeline in order to pump the water 15 miles uphill to a reservoir. From there, it will stay until the ski resort needs it.

During the off-ski season, the resort will them pump the wastewater into large fans where the water will become frozen droplets and snow.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the wastewater is completely safe for humans as long as it is treated. However that has not stopped the local community, Native Americans and even environmentalists oppose the plan due to health concerns. They state that a US Geological Survey has found that even “clean” wastewater “can contain a wide range of organic chemicals, pharmaceuticals, hormones, industrial pollutants, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

Work has already begun on the pipeline and if the Snowbowl starts its ‘poop snow’ plan, it will be the first resort in the world to use 100 percent wastewater to do. However, this has not stopped critics from saying the plan is flawed due to the lack of understanding about the long-term impact.

“When you put these substances into a delicate alpine environment like the Peaks, there are going to be big impacts to amphibians, other animals and the soil,” said Andy Bessler, an environmental justice organizer for the Sierra Club based in Flagstaff.

Native American tribes also oppose the plans saying the Peaks sacred ground and to use effulent would sully their holy ground. They have a point – even the Forest Service, who have approved the plan, think so. In a statement, they said:

“The Forest Service acknowledges the tribal perspective of the effects of ‘scarring’ on the sacred landscape and that the associated spiritual and cultural impacts may in fact be considered irreversible in nature.” They also acknowledged that the use of reclaimed water for snow “could negatively impact the spiritual and medicinal purity of resident flora on the Peaks.”

“Dumping sewage effluent on Peaks amounts to “cultural genocide,” said 35-year-old Klee Benally, a Navajo who has spent half his life fighting for the Peaks. “Our identity is based on our relationship with these sacred places and this — having the source of our spiritual renewal become so contaminated and desecrated — is a direct threat to our survival.”

So – ingenious recycling in action and a sure-fire way to ski all season, or literally soiling the natural landscape for our own benefit?

+ The Snowbowl Ski Resort

via Mother Jones



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  1. oubliette April 25, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Making snow out of sewage is a thousand times better than dumping it in the ocean and if anything is can help stabilize the amount of crap we dump into groundwater, oceans, ect. If anything we could use this to replenish the snow that is melting away in the ice caps. This is pretty genius and we should keep our eye onthis because human waste is the only thing our Earth cant absorb.

  2. kyleboggs October 28, 2011 at 3:03 am

    I know this post is old, but after seeing such misinformed comments on this post, I have to correct the lies. and I assume nobody will see it.

    First of all, at least 13 tribes of the southwest that hold the Peaks sacred. The White Mountain Apache, who owns Sunrise ski resort, is just one of these tribes. The 12 other tribes do not have a vested interest in skiing. Second, yes, Apache make snow, but it isn’t reclaimed waste water. Second – the tribes get very little money from casinos. Oh. And regarding your “trash all over the res” comment…do some minimal research on poverty. I got news for you, privilege is invisible to those that have it!

    Also, reclaimed wastewater is not one homogenous thing. It contains different compounds depending on where you are and what’s being dumped into local water supplies. Filtration is also not one homogenous thing. So, for example, yeah, they drink reclaimed water in Orange County. However, it’s has gone through a much more sophisticated filtration process than what they’re going to dump on the Peaks. The EPA is entrenched in a multi-year study of reclaimed water and this study won’t be complete until 2013. There are compounds in the water – drugs, hormones, endocrine disruptors, antibiotics, and chemicals – the EPA doesn’t require testing for these compounds at the moment. That’s why its graded A+.

    Yeah man – those greedy native americans trying to get even more for themselves! You found them out. Give me a fucking break! This is another example of rich white elite trying to squeeze every penny they can no matter the cost.

    And you obviously just want to ski, so examine your own bias before you sound like an ignorant asshole all over the internet.

  3. seamusdubh August 25, 2011 at 7:07 am

    This is such a non-issue it’s funny. It’s the same kind of water that comes from any waste treatment plant in the US. Which is usually dumped right back into the rivers it was pulled from and or used in local irrigation.

  4. lazyreader August 24, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    The initiative is to treat the water before use. I’ve heard of sol called living machines that can filter water to drinkable standards. In the near future we’ll recycle all our waste water for immediate human consumption. The same technology that is used aboard the space station. In the not to distant future, all current and expected water treatment technologies are gonna be rendered obsolete by a new technology; Nano membranes. They function on the size of the gaps of linked carbon atoms to restrict most particles to flow through it. Water molecules are barely small enough to fit through thus must be force through at high pressure, but prevent larger particles like bacteria, prions, poisons, viruses, salts and other particles which are too large to fit. It’s the same stuff they propose to use for desalinating water from the sea which will render most current desalination technology obsolete as well. Treatment or desalination will be interlinked to provide water needs and with far less energy needed to do it and the costs of doing either is gonna be comparable and superior to previous technology which require lots of mechanical parts to separate and lots of chemical separators and disinfectants.

  5. jsdavis02 August 24, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    Look, this article needs a dose of effort put into it. It takes only a few minutes of searching to find that a big reason the native americans have fought this for years is because they run the only other ski resort in the state. And it’s on there land and they do blow snow, but it’s 4 hours from Phoenix, not 2 like Flagstaff is. So they know their business could be really hurt if flagstaff can fairly compete. Do some more digging and find the real motivation, it has nothing to do with safety and culture, it has to do with money. Same reason the state has casino’s everywhere. Sadly you actually go drive around on the reservations and all you see is trash everywhere, the respect the land mantra has long since been lost, and I am 1/8th native american and it makes me sad.

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