AZ Supreme Court Rules Against Hopi Tribe in Snowmaking Challenge

Nov 29, 2018

The Arizona Supreme Court has sided with Arizona Snowbowl in a longstanding challenge to artificial snowmaking using reclaimed wastewater. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the Hopi Tribe contends it desecrates sacred sites and prevents religious ceremonies.

Arizona Snowbowl began making snow with reclaimed wastewater sold by the City of Flagstaff in 2012.
Credit Courtesy

The court rejected the Hopi argument that snowmaking by Arizona Snowbowl on the San Francisco Peaks represents a special injury to the tribe. The majority wrote that government officials or Congress are best suited to govern the tribe’s use of public lands for religious purposes.

Snowbowl began making snow in 2012 using treated, reclaimed wastewater. The resort purchases the effluent from the city of Flagstaff.

The Peaks, located on the Coconino National Forest, are considered sacred by more than a dozen Southwestern tribes. In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Scott Bales writes that the Hopi face the destruction of some of their most sacred locations and practices.

This state Supreme Court ruling and the Hopi lawsuit caps years of legal challenges to snowmaking. The courts have now thrown out all of them.