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Study disputes economic benefits of snowmaking

The City of Flagstaff has decided to renew a contract to sell wastewater to Arizona Snowbowl for snowmaking. The decision was made by city staff, not by City Council.   

The decision comes as a new study questions the economic impact of the ski resort.

The report commissioned by the Hopi Tribe disputes previous economic studies that found a $17 million annual economic impact.

John Duffield, an economics professor at the University of Montana, says previous studies overstated the impact.

Those reports looked at the economic impact of larger crowds at Snowbowl -- both out-of-town visitors and locals. But Duffield says locals should not have been counted.

“The standard view in economics is that that’s not really new spending in the economy,” he says. “That if they didn’t go to Snowbowl, maybe they would go bowling or go out to dinner more.”

Duffield’s research concluded that the economic impact of snowmaking would be closer to $6 million annually, which he said is “insignificant.” 

The Hopi Tribe and other tribes oppose using reclaimed wastewater to make snow on San Francisco Peaks, which many tribal members consider sacred.

The ski area will begin making snow soon, so that it can extend the ski season into April.