Trail Break Radio – Episode 5: Out of Bounds: Corporate Ski Resort Development and the Public Good

Delve into a hot topic! Do we actually need more resort development? At what cost?

Photo Credit: Dally Hue @dallyhue

More than 20 years after the publication of Hal Clifford’s seminal book, Downhill Slide: Why the Corporate Ski Industry is Bad for Skiing, Ski Towns, and the Environment, the number of annual skier days has remained flat. The number of people participating in resort skiing is actually on the decline, while the number of backcountry skiers and riders has exploded. And yet we are now seeing a significant spike in proposed ski resort development and expansion onto wild public lands.

What’s going on here? What do we lose when we expand commercial operations even deeper onto public lands, especially in places where people like to backcountry ski?

Cindy Riegel, Chris Pitcher, and Erik Lambert look at what we can do to keep things in check and what other models we can look at to improve both resort-based and backcountry winter recreation.

Chris Pitcher is a fifth-generation Colorado native with deep roots in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, where his family has been actively engaged since the late 1800s. As a dedicated member of the Wolf Creek Ski Area Board of Directors, Chris contributes his extensive knowledge and passion for the region’s outdoor heritage. Beyond his involvement in the ski area, he is a skilled professional engineer and the owner of a successful consulting firm in Pagosa Springs, Colorado, specializing in responsible river restoration projects across the Western United States. Chris has a commitment to preserving natural landscapes and promoting pragmatic practices.

Cindy Riegel is serving her third term as a County Commissioner for Teton County, Idaho. She has been instrumental in the adoption of modern zoning and land use regulations, the establishment of a successful Housing Authority, and the implementation of the Teton County Recreation and Public Access Master Plan. Commissioner Riegel has a keen interest in the environmental and socio-economic impacts related to the proposed expansion of her local ski area, Grand Targhee Resort. The resort is located in Teton County, Wyoming but is dependent on Idaho’s infrastructure and services.

Erik Lambert started skiing at age one when his dad pushed him around the sleepy woods of Poughkeepsie on some homemade planks. He’s spent the past 10 years as a marketing and communication professional in the outdoor industry. Now he runs his own consultancy and creative shop for outdoor brands and non-profits called Bonfire Collective and co-founded Bluebird Backcountry, the first human-powered ski area in the country.

Tune in for a hard look at how we manage commercial resorts on public lands, how we make sure they’re sustainable, and that we’re not cutting into those wild backcountry places where we like to go skiing or walking around under our own power.

You will not want to miss Episode 5, sponsored by generous Backcountry Partner, Backcountry Babes.  

If you’re interested in sponsoring an Episode of Trail Break Radio. Email Emily Scott at to become a Backcountry Partner.