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From the skiing standpoint alone it does not make sense to elminate ski touring and ski mountaineering in southern California in order to have just one more (even though somewhat better) downhill resort.
To permit ski lifts and a highway in the wilderness area would destroy it.
That destruction would also apply to an important part of skiing itself-ski touring and mountaineering.
The very quality that has made southern California great-lack of severe winters—means that any ski resort here, including San Gorgonio, has undependable snow conditions. San Gorgonio could be a good ski resort, but not a great one.
As skiers and citizens, we believe that the benefits of one more ski resort would be outweighed many times by the detriment from loss of wilderness values.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF ALVIN T. FISHMAN, RETIRED EDUCATOR Mr. FISHMAN. My name is Alvin T. Fishman, gentlemen.
Representative Hosmer has repeatedly pled that some participant in these proceedings proposes a plan that would both permit ski development and preserve the wilderness. No one has offered such a plan. Neither do I; for I firmly believe the two projects to be absolutely incompatible. And I see no useful purpose to be served by trying to arrange a marriage that is so sure to lead to a quick divorce.
The peak and the north slope are as essential to an arctic-alpine wilderness as they are desirable for skiing. Congress recently decided that this area should be a wilderness. Congress could, conceivably, now yield to the continuing pressure of years to commercial-to open the area for commercial skiing.
That would involve so altering the area as to render it no longer a true arctic-alpine wilderness. That would mean a great educational loss-a loss to children of the outdoor schools, to students in our colleges, to researchers in the natural sciences. A loss which could never be repaired—for no amount of money, labor, or legislation can retrieve a lost wilderness.
If you vote to retain the wilderness now, you may find it necessary to hold another hearing next year; for the pressure will surely continue. Obviously, if at any time you or your successors decide that preserving the wilderness was a mistake, you and your colleagues will have the power to correct the error. If, on the other hand, you and your colleagues vote to permit commercial ski development, you will have passed the point of no return, you will have taken an irreversible action.
Therefore, honorable sirs, I strongly urge that you vote to refuse commercial ski development in the San Gorgonio wilderness at least, for the present.
Thank you, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF MUIR DAWSON, INDIVIDUAL, LOS ANGELES,
Mr. Dawson. Gentlemen, my name is Muir Dawson. As a skier for over 30 years in southern California and a regular visitor to the San Gorgonio area in winter, spring, and summer for the last 25 years, I feel I can understand the desires of both the skiers and the conservationists concerning the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. If it were truly possible to open a small portion of the wilderness area for commercial ski development without damaging wilderness values—then, I would be in favor of taking this step.
If it were truly possible to give the skiers who need mechanical means to get them up a mountain what they want without damaging or destroying the area for other uses, then I would be in favor of opening up San Gorgonio. My experience, however, leads me to believe that this dual role is not possible.
Most scenic area would be taken by ski development.
The area proposed for commercial skiing is in the very heart of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area—the most scenic and most cherished places visited by ski tourers, campers, and hikers.
Trading 3,500 acres in the heart of the areas for a similar number of adjacent acres of relatively uninteresting territory is hardly a fair trade. With buildings, parking lots, chair lifts, cleared ski trails, and roads placed in this heartland of San Gorgonio, it is difficult to see what would be left to interest users other than downhill skiers.
Ski development would change character of lower area as well.
It is clear that a development of the size envisioned by the proponents of the bill being considered would eventually bring with it the need for wider highways, gas stations, hotels, motels, and restaurants. Thus the ski development would change the character of other parts of the San Gorgonio area as well as the wilderness.
Thank you, gentlemen.
If areas of development for human recreation are to be preserved in a natural state, they must be preserved today.
Why such a simple statement still needs to be said is so disturbing because we see our open spaces disappearing swiftly in favor of capital development everywhere.
Why do we have to fight to save every inch?
Skiers are recreationists, they need areas to ski. Unfortunately, they also bring along commercial interests; if this is a fact of life, then the skiers must be forbidden. If the skiers can come alone, they have a right to some of San Gorgonio wilderness. Can they do without the money development?
Wild areas must be protected from destruction at every level: Congress, the State legislature, county supervisors, and city councils, and
individuals at the ballot box must care. If once wild lands are lost, they are so irretrievably gone. It is up
to you officially, to decide today's dollar or tomorrow's treasure. It takes wisdom and courage, perhaps vision.
Thank you, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF SEYMOUR OSSOFSKY, CHAIRMAN OF THE SKI
MOUNTAINEERS SECTION OF THE SIERRA CLUB
Mr. OsSOFSKY. Gentlemen, I am Seymour Ossofsky. I am here to speak to you on why I oppose commercial ski development of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area. I speak as an avid skier with 20 years experience.
For the last 10 of those years, I have been skiing virtually every weekend-and taking skiing vacations wherever I could find snow in this area or hundreds of miles away. I have skied from Maine to Alaska—and at most major resorts in this country.
I have ski toured in the Sierra Nevadas and the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for years.
I also speak as the chairman of the ski mountaineers section of the Sierra Club chapter in this area. I have been an official of that organization in various capacities for 7 years. I am also a member of the Far West Ski Association. Thus, I speak as a person devoted to resort skiing as well as wilderness (cross-country) skiing.
Three key reasons why I oppose these bills.-
Commercial skiing would spoil one of southern California's most important recreational areas in summer as well as in winter.
Third, San Gorgonio is irreplaceable as a wilderness area. But, it is easily replaceable as a proposed ski area.
Wind and snow—two reasons why San Gorgonio is greatly overrated as a ski area.-Flying over San Gorgonio or viewing it from the car en route to Palm Springs, the area looks as if it were made for skiers.
But, after 10 years of ski touring into that area, I have come to realize how deceiving San Gorgonio can be from a distance.
I have found that many times the upper slopes (10,000 feet) are so windblown that there are bare spots even though it looks like a solid sheet of snow from a distance. It is so windblown that the snow cover is thin-only a few inches. It is so windblown that the tops of many rocks jut through the snow cover. In short, the upper section of the proposed ski area is swept by high winds which blow much of the snow away.
It is not a sheltered bowl. It is literally wind blasted much of the time.
The lower elevations are protected from the wind. And, they do get more snow than most other local areas. But, they still do not get enough snow for regular, dependable skiing.
I have learned about this through experience. As a longstanding official of the Ski Mountaineers, have had to reschedule or cancel many ski tours into that area because of lack of snow. It is simply not dependable.
The local ski-lift operators who use Yankee ingenuity and produced manmade snow for their areas have a far longer and more dependable season than the San Gorgonio area. Maybe we need more Yankee ingenuity in southern California.
San Gorgonio is overrated as a ski area in another important respect—its convenience to Los Angeles. I have timed the drive from the end of the road at Poopout Hill to my home in Los Angeles, near La Brea and Rodeo Boulevard-many times. It takes approximately 3 hours on a Sunday evening during the winter desert resort season. Unfortunately, the winter desert resort and skiing seasons conflict. The traffic is bumper to bumper now on the San Bernardino Freeway during that period. Think what it would be with added ski traffic.
But in contrast, it will only be 4 or 5 hours' drive to projected ski resorts in the Sierra Nevadas such as Mineral King and Robinson Basin. Both offer far better skiing than San Gorgonio; and Mineral King is even now being bid upon for development in the very near future.
Overrated as a ski area, but cannot be overrated in its importance to southern California as a wilderness area.--For literally thousands of summer-winter hikers, strollers, campers, ski tourers, people who just want to get away from it all San Gorgonio is the only place of its type in southern California. This is particularly true in the summer, and I think it is important to remember that San Gorgonio is more than just a winter recreational area.
When I think of putting in a ski resort which uses up Slusky Meadows and Dry Lake, I think of a playground with a railroad switching yard in the middle of it.
That playground analogy is more accurate than one may suspect. Thousands of children use the San Gorgonio area every year as an opportunity to get away from it all into the wilderness with their parents, church groups, youth organizations, et cetera. It is hard for a child to think he is truly roughing it in the wilderness when parking lots, buildings, and trams are nearby. The plain fact is that Slushy Meadows and Dry Lake are two of the major sources of running water in the San Gorgonio area; favored camping places for thousands, summer and winter.
We need San Gorgonio as a wilderness area; we do not need it as a ski area.-It is that simple. San Gorgonio as a wilderness area cannot be replaced. And, it will not be a wilderness area if commercial enterprises intrude. There are no gray areas here. And, the facts are, there are other alternatives; in the Sierra, and locally. Even more important, San Gorgonio is vastly overrated as a ski area.
Why give up a first-rate wilderness area enjoyed by thousands the year round for a second-rate ski area, sought mainly by people who have other ski areas available now, with more coming in the future.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF PAUL R. COOLEY, INDIVIDUAL, LOS ANGELES,
Mr. COOLEY. Gentlemen, as an experienced mountaineer and as a concerned native of southern California, I strongly protest the proposed invasion of the San Gorgonio Wilderness Area for development for family winter recreation.
I believe the following points are pertinent:
1. San Gorgonio, as the only remaining undeveloped high mountain area in southern California, åffords a unique opportunity for escape from mechanized civilization. Because of its proximity to metropolitan areas, its general accessibility, and its unique character, the wilderness area is heavily used in both winter and summer by groups composed of people of all ages and experience levels.
2. The proposed development in the Dry Lake Basin would emasculate the wilderness area. While the addition of the Whitewater River drainage would be welcome, it would in no way compensate for the development and loss of the Dry Lake Basin.
Because I have made several dozen trips to the area, and have climbed to the top of San Gorgonio Mountain four times from diverse directions, I can personally vouch for the accuracy of the above statements.
I believe I can speak not only for my family and myself, but also for the 30 or 40 people with whom I have climbed in the area whose names do not appear on the witness list.
Thank you, gentlemen.
STATEMENT OF MRS. VIRGINIA H. FIRTH, INDIVIDUAL, SAN
BERNARDINO, CALIF. Mrs. FIRTH. Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, my name is Virginia H. Firth.
My point of view is that of an officeworker who by the end of the week is wound up and weary of being confined within four walls where the telephone, typewriter, and other office machines create a constant background of mechanical sounds.
So, it is real physical and emotional need to get out of doors and far
away from the necessities of civilization, to go where there are no cars, no buildings, no manmade things to get in the way of the natural beauty of the wilderness.
In hiking these trails where all others are also on foot, there is a healing of the spirit and a toning up of the body.
It is a getting back to Mother Nature, to the primary source with its untouched streams, meadows, trees, and heights.
This primitive area is needed more than ever as our world daily becomes more mechanized.
This is not a place to put in roads so that crowds of cars and masses of people can rush in and despoil this beautiful area. This place should be held in trust for the next generation to enjoy even as thousands of us now do each year.
STATEMENT OF DOROTHY TRAVER, INDIVIDUAL, SAN
BERNARDINO, CALIF. Miss TRAVER. It is vital to keep San Gorgonio as a natural area without a ski lift. I have spent vacations in the mountains in San Bernardino County since I was a child.
We used to camp in Big Bear, Little Bear, and Forest Home. Now, as county librarian, I go to mountain communities where there are library branches and bookmobile stops. The country surrounding San Gorgonio is almost the only part of the mountains which has not become an extension of the metropolitan area.