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citizens committee is to promote legislation allowing lift skiing in a small portion of the San Gorgonio area, and at the same time to make certain that safeguards are included in the legislation to protect the existing uses and values.
To this end, on June 23, 1965, the San Bernardino County Citizens for San Gorgonio adopted the following resolution:
San Bernardino County Citizens for San Gorgonio endorse legislation to open a small portion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for family winter recreational uses, including lift skiing, in a manner compatible with preservation of present values and uses of the area.
We recommend that legislation for that purpose include the following provisions :
1. The area to be limited to 3,500 acres of the 35,000 acres in the wilderness area and to be above the 9,000-foot level in what is called the San Gorgonio bowl area which is north of Mount San Gorgonio and Jepson Peak and east of Charlton Peak;
2. Any access road shall be east of the South Fork of the Santa Ana River and shall not be visible from nor pass through the areas now principally used for hiking and camping in the South Fork (Slushy) Meadow;
3. No public overnight accommodations permitted; 4. Ski facilities shall not interfere with the watershed; 5. Sanitation shall comply with all State and county requirements; 6. That operator of the lift facilities contribute a reasonable portion of gross receipts to a trust fund to be administered jointly by the U.S. Forest Service district ranger and the executive board of the Sierra Club for the improvement and extension of camping, hiking and outdoor facilities generally in the San Bernardino National Forest. The merits of the legislation: Any proper understanding of the proposed opening of Mount San Gorgonio for lift skiing requires a clear knowledge of the problem that each winter faces thousands upon thousands of family recreational skiers in Southern California. That problem can be simply stated as this:
What do I do in the absence of constant, reliable snow conditions during the winter months?
This problem arises by reason of (a) our southerly latitude and consequent scarcity of rainfall, and (b) the low elevation of existing ski areas. The principal ski areas in the San Bernardino Mountains: The principal areas in the San Gabriel Mountains are at Mount Baldy, Mount Waterman, and near Wrightwood. The principal lift areas in the San Bernardino Mountains are at Snow Valley (Running Spring) and in the Big Bear Lake area. All of these lift areas are located in elevations ranging from 6,000 feet to 8,200 feet in altitude. As a consequence, snow conditions in these areas are extremely "spotty" and unreliable. The history of this past season (1964–65) is a good example. We had some skiable snow for a short period in November of 1964. After it had melted, we had another snowfall sufficient for skiable snow in late December, which continued until mid-January 1965. From mid-January 1965, we had no skiable snow in southern California until approximately April 20, when a late spring storm brought snow that lasted for approximately 2 weeks. There are no arguments such as those presented by Mr. Break and Mr. Hinckley that the skiers can go somewhere else, to other areas. But, that there
are no others because Mount San Gorgonio is a unique area. During the interval of 3 months, from mid-January to mid-April 1965, anyone in southern California desiring to ski was forced to travel 300miles (one way) to Mammoth Mountain, Calif., upon the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada range. The snowfall for the seasons of 1962-63 and 1963-64 were not much better than those of 1964-65. In short, the real "ski problem" is the absence of constant, reliable snow conditions. during the winter period of approximately 4 to 412 months of each
The only solution to this problem lies in the opening of Mount San Gorgonio for lift skiing. Mount San Gorgonio is unique as I said in many respects:
(a) At an elevation of 11,485 feet, it is the highest peak in southern California.
(b) It has vast "bowls" on its north slope that trap and retain the snow for many months.
(c) It lies within 85 miles of millions of southern Californians, and is therefore readily accessible for ski purposes.
The area proposed for development lies between the 9,000- and 11,000-foot elevations. From the standpoint of elevation, Mount San Gorgonio begins where the other areas end. These facts, plus the established reliability and quality of the snowfall in the San Gorgonio area, provide the only answer to the winter recreational needs of many thousands of southern Californians who are recreational skiers, and who ski on a daytime recreational basis only.
The "ski problem" is not merely a matter of overtaxed facilities. It is true that when there is available snow, all existing facilities in southern California are taxed to the limit, and that the "lift lines" are long. However, the addition of one, or for that matter, even five, new ski areas would not solve that problem. There are simply too many skiers in southern California to solve the problem of overcrowding on weekends. The problem, therefore, is not to create just "another ski area," but to take advantage of the only area in southern California that can provide reliable and constant snow conditions during the 4 to 412 months of our winter season.
Once the real "ski problem" is understood and recognized, the fallacy of the arguments of the opponents is self-evident. For example:
(a) It is often argued that the area involved is the "heart" of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area, and that the "ski problem" can be solved by locating a lift in some other area. This is the only area less than 85 miles from so many skiers. Those who advance this argument simply do not understand the nature of the ski problem. This argument completely overlooks the real problem as above stated. While there may be other areas that lend themselves to development for lift skiing, there is in fact no other area in southern California that has the unique advantage of San Gorgonio (elevation, north slope, and proximity to great population centers). The creation of another lift area elsewhere simply cannot solve the essential problem. Its snowfall would be as unreliable and as unsatisfactory as in existing areas.
(b) It is also argued that the "ski problem" can be solved by "artificial snow." This argument is invalid for the same reasons as above stated. At best, artificial snow can provide just another ski area of
limited size that elevations presently use by existing lifts. They are expensive to install and at best cover areas of a few acres. They are fine for rank beginners, but they offer nothing to anyone who is advanced beyond the beginning states of skiing. °Furthermore, "artificial snow” has no more lasting qualities than natural snow. The retention of snow for skiing depends upon climatic conditions. Its retention over a long period of time depends upon cold days and nights. Consequently, "artificial snow” cannot be relied upon to extend or enlarge the ski season for the same reason that natural snow cannot be relied upon. The climatic conditions do not permit it.
(c) It is sometimes argued that the San Gorgonio area is now available for skiing and that therefore lifts are unnecessary. This argument completely overlooks the difference between lift skiers (who comprise approximately 98 percent of all skiers) and cross-country skiers. It is true that the area is available for cross-country skiing. However, cross-country skiing is nothing more than hiking on skis. It is totally different from downhill skiing, or lift skiing. It should further be emphasized that while cross-country skiing is a fine activity, and should be encouraged, it is available only to those who have the skill, the strength, the experience, and the endurance to do it. This excludes women, it excludes the thousands of children between the ages of 6 and 18, and it excludes the older skiers, all of whom lack the qualifications to hike from "Poop-out Hill” up to the areas where the bowls of snow exist. This argument is totally fallacious. In short, the present limitation on the use of Mount San Gorgonio area creates a de facto discrimination against 98 percent of the skiing population in favor of a very minority.
When the entire matter in controversy is viewed objectively, and without all of the emotional arguments on either side, certain propositions seem clear and irrefutable.
These are: (a) That this area is public domain. It belongs to all citizens. It belongs as much to those who ski as to those who enjoy hiking and camping. Neither has a prior right or preference:
(6) The area should be developed in such a manner that it may be used and enjoyed by the greatest number of our citizens over the greatest period of time, and should not be preserved as the exclusive domain of the few.
In this connection, it should be emphasized that the wintertime recreational use for skiing and other winter sports is totally compatible with the summertime use for hiking and camping. At present, the principal use of the area is for hiking and camping, most of which occurs between June 1 and Labor Day of each year. It is accomplished in the main by the many children who attend the youth camps in the Barton Flats area. After Labor Day, the use of the area is minimal almost to the point of being nonexistent. There is no reason whatsoever why the present uses of the area for hiking and camping, principally by youth groups, cannot and will not continue, notwithstanding the development of the area for winter recreational use.
There is the matter of establishing a "precedent."
One of the arguments most frequently advanced by the opponents is that it will establish a bad precedent with respect to other wilderness areas if the proposed legislation is adopted. This is absolutely untrue. Precedent depends upon similarity of circumstances. The
circumstances here are unique in the extreme. As previously pointed
The north-facing slopes, having the ability to hold snow for long periods of time; and
(c) The close proximity to tremendous population centers.
So far as I can determine, these conditions are duplicated nowhere else in the entire wilderness system. Most wilderness areas are remote from population centers. Most have much lower elevations. Few, if any, have suitable snow conditions.
An analogous situation exists with respect to municipal zoning laws. It has never been contemplated that zoning laws are fixed and immutable forever. It is true that they are passed to preserve property values, to stabilize a community and to provide adequate facilities for the entire population by placing certain activities in the most appropriate areas. However, the history of zoning laws has been that wherever it was shown that an area was improperly classified, or that there had been changes which justified a change in the zoning law, the law was changed accordingly. Certainly it was not the intent of the wilderness bill to prevent the development of the public domain for the greatest use and enjoyment by the greatest number of people wherever such need was shown.
Although it initially sounds impressive, the "precedent” argument is not valid and does not withstand close analysis.
I therefore respectfully urge the honorable members of this committee to report favorably to the Congress of the United States upon legislation designed to open 3,500 acres of Mount San Gorgonio for lift skiing, with appropriate safeguards built into the legislation to protect the existing uses and benefits.
May I conclude by reading to you a list of the organizations in this county that have gone on record by resolution favoring the adoption of this legislation.
The San Bernardino Realty Board; the San Bernardino Motel Association; Victorville Chamber of Commerce; Apple Valley Chamber of Commerce; Asbury Chamber of Commerce, Colton Chamber of Commerce, Menton Chamber of Commerce; the Menton Rotary Club; the High Desert Tourist and Recreation Council; Apple Valley-Victorville-Lucerne; Yucca Valley Realty Board; the Argonaut Club, a service club in San Bernardino; the Lucerne Valley Chamber of Commerce; the San Bernardino Junior Chamber of Commerce; and, the Victor Valley Junior Chamber of Commerce.
Thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Wilson. Yes, sir; may I seek permission from the committee to offer in evidence 20 copies of a little brochure which our citizens committee has prepared, with reference to my statement?
Mr. HOSMER. I move that with unanimous consent, Mr. Chairman, it be received for the file.
Mr. Baring. Without objection, so ordered.
Mr. HOSMER. Mr. Wilson, Mr. Dolder mentioned six sites that were within 4 hours distance driving from the metropolitan area here which were considered for skiing. Presumably, five of them, that is all of them except San Gorgonio, were approved by the State.
What is the matter with them?
Mr. WILSON. I would like for someone to tell me where they are. I can tell you one thing; they are not in San Bernardino County, to my knowledge.
Mr. HOSMER. He did not say they were in San Bernardino County. He said they were within 4 hours travel time of this metropolitan
Mr. Wilson. He indicated they were in the southern slope of the Sierra Nevada which puts them up in Kern County and some distance far remote at least from the San Bernardino area. Although it is closer to Los Angeles, he is talking about 4 hours' driving time; I assume he is talking about some 200 miles.
Mr. HOSMER. I do not think that 4 hours' driving time is an unreasonable amount of time in order to pursue a hobby, is it?
Mr. Wilson. Well, that depends on your personal point of view, sir.
Mr. HOSMER. Well, it would be nice to be able to go out in your backyard and go into a ski lift. But I do not think many people have that opportunity available, do they?
Mr. WILSON. I suppose not.
Mr. HOSMER. Now, these five other sites, this one would just give you a 16 percent more chance to get some snow. What is so utterly important about it, other than its availability to those of your association who happen to live close to it?
Mr. WILSON. I do not understand your question.
Mr. HOSMER. The five other areas, according to Mr. Dolder, which are desirable for skiing and available for skiing, except for the different snow conditions, and you have mentioned that all of these areas have different snow conditions; but, you added the sixth one, which is San Gorgonio, and that is only increasing the probability by some 16 percent of having good snow.
So what is so important about this to you, other than the fact that it is readily accessible to your home!
Mr. Wilson. I am talking about an area within 85 miles of Los Angeles, which somebody can get into his automobile in Los Angeles, as they do now, go up to Big Bear, ski all day and go home. If
you have to ride 4 hours up and 4 hours back, that area is useless for that type of skiing.
Mr. HoSMER. Apparently, from the report given by the motel association here, they must be contemplating some overnight trips.
Mr. Wilson. I suppose they do.
STATEMENT OF KEITH HUBBS, MEMBER OF CITIZENS
Mr. HUBBS. Mr. Chairman and members of the honorable committee, to the best of my knowledge, the question of opening the San Gorgonio area for winter recreation has been going on since the early thirties. At that time skiing was a little known sport. Today it is one of the fastest growing types of recreation we have. The fact that we have far too few good winter recreation facilities is obvious in our country's attempts to make a good showing in the winter Olym