Sierra Club Invites Snowbowl Management to Consider the Meaning of Humility
As Arizona Snowbowl rolls out its massive new Master Development Plan, they are making the rounds to sell the idea of turning the mountain into a year-round amusement park with rides, events, snowplay, and more, including a lot more tree clearing, soil damage, and artificial snowmaking with reclaimed water. If you would like to learn more about the ongoing injustices at Snowbowl, you can view this webinar on Snowbowl as part of our Irreplaceable: Grand Canyon series.
Snowbowl’s General Manager viewed the webinar and invited us to a meeting. We heard that Snowbowl was being told to speak to stakeholders about the proposed Plan. We had taken time to meet with the former manager about a former version of the Plan and did not feel like the management was willing to make any changes. (As an example of Snowbowl’s disingenuous attitude, night skiing, which was dropped from Snowbowl’s planning more than 15 years ago in response to Tribal opposition, was part of the former version of this Plan and then removed in a “compromise” with Tribes, again. Is it a compromise when you waste everyone’s energy twice? NO.)
To give context to the letter below, Mr. Linde has several times tossed around language in a gratuitous manner without meaning, in a manner that emphasizes his lack of respect for the 13 Tribes for whom the San Francisco Peaks Traditional Cultural Property (TCP) is part of their cosmology. Arizona Snowbowl is within the TCP and ski area operations, particularly artificial snowmaking with reclaimed water, is extremely offensive and destructive.
An example of Mr. Linde’s careless use of language is presented in this article in the Navajo Times, where he claims to, “recognize the cultural heritage and spiritual significance of the San Francisco Peaks. We… understand the great responsibility of operating this recreational facility… We’re humbled…” (Please read the rest of the article to hear from those with genuinely deep connections to the Peaks.) Nearly identical language is also in a video on Snowbowl’s Master Development Plan website.
In response to Mr. Linde’s meeting request, we replied in the following manner. Several people asked if the text of the letter could be shared. Here it is:
Thank you for the invitation. My time is extremely limited and I do not think that there is a reason to meet at this time. I haven’t seen any indication that a meeting will accomplish anything.
I have heard you use words such as “humble” to describe your feelings of operating a ski resort on the Peaks. Please understand, I have never seen Arizona Snowbowl management or ownership demonstrate any example of humility. Humility starts with listening to and trying to understand the people whom you are hurting. I will believe there is humility when I see an honest analysis of your impacts and an effort to scale back your burden on the Mountain, on the Tribes, and on my community. Humility is not “compromising” by removing small parts from your plan to massively expand operations. Humility is realizing you have already caused significant damage. Humility is acknowledging that you have been treated to an extraordinary amount of privilege, and then using that privilege to do the right thing.
During the past year, while my friends, neighbors, and colleagues mourned the loss of family members – in some cases entire families were lost – and elders passed on, taking their enormous wisdom along with them, Snowbowl operated with no humility at all.
Multiple visitors and employees have described the feeling to me in a similar manner. I keep hearing versions of, “It’s like Covid doesn’t exist up there.” I heard from employees and patrons who felt disrespected and afraid to speak out. Dozens of visitors report that they bought day passes online, as they were asked, and then weren’t allowed up because the slopes were full with season pass holders, and – unabashedly – Snowbowl made it a policy this winter not to answer their phones and not to issue refunds to visitors who couldn’t get in. Instead, customers were encouraged to come back and try again another day, when they again didn’t know if they’d make the cut, clogging our roads and cramming into businesses that were trying to deal with their own Covid protocols. As our neighbors were dying, you were acting as if you had no responsibility to the community at all. As Covid raged on, you decided it was too much trouble to answer the phone.
A Tribal member even had to go up there, in the middle of the pandemic, to check whether the Forest Service was meeting its Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act obligations (they weren’t). He shouldn’t have had to do that. He did, because it was so important to him that he was willing to take the risk.
And now, you want to develop a relationship with me. What are you offering in exchange for my time? Are you offering the concession that you are hurting people and you are ready to stop? Are you offering to cease operations and enter in earnest negotiations with Tribal governance and Tribal members? Are you offering not to clear cut any more forests or waste any more precious water? Are you offering the ability of researchers to access your property to determine the impact of reclaimed water? Are you offering to limit your visitor capacity in a manner that is consistent with prior environmental studies and with the traffic capacity of my town? I will be happy to develop a relationship once I truly believe that you understand the harm you are doing and that you are trying to authentically undo that harm. Until then, there is no purpose in meeting.
You are asking Native peoples to surrender their religious freedom, asking all of us to give up Hart Prairie beneath acres and acres of fill and erosive gullies, asking the world to possibly lose a threatened endemic plant; you’ve asked your employees to risk serious illness and your clients to lose time and money.
You have not only disrespected the Tribes and my community, you have disrespected your own staff and customers. Please study up on the meaning of humility.
Then maybe we can talk.
With utmost sincerity,