FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Arizona Snowbowl's 75th season is officially under way, but not without some controversy.
Thanks to snowmaking equipment and reclaimed wastewater, the ski resort will keep is slopes open to skiers and snowboarders until spring.
In years past, Snowbowl relied on Mother Nature to coat the slopes, which means there was no guarantee of snow -- or skiing. That's no longer the case and that's where the controversy comes in.
Several Native American tribes consider the San Francisco Peaks sacred.
They object to the use of reclaimed wastewater on the federal land.
While those who support snowmaking say it will have significant positive impact on Flagstaff, the Hopis say the effect will be small at best because skiers don't spend much money in town.
Environmentalists have expressed repeated concerns that even though the reclaimed wastewater has been treated and meets standards for reuse set by the Environmental Protection Agency, it could still contain potentially harmful contaminants.
In order to make snow, water is piped from the treatment plant in Flagstaff to the snow makers on the mountain. Those snow makers spray water and compressed snow into the cold air. The mist crystallizes into snow as it comes down.
Snowbowl officials say their snow will actually be cleaner than what's made at many resorts that use water from ponds or streams -- water that has not been treated and tested.
“We are delighted that guests now will be able to count on a guaranteed, predictable and longer ski season,” said General Manager J.R. Murray back in early October.
After years of back-and-forth arguing, the decision has been made in favor of snowmaking, but that did not stop some protesters from gathering, signs in hand, as Snowbowl welcomed its first visitors of the season.
A recent trio of storms dropped nearly 3 feet of snow on the resort so it has not yet fired up the new snowmaking equipment to supplement what Mother Nature provided.
Regular adult tickets to Snowbowl are $55; children ages 8-12 are $35 for an all-day pass. The resort's regular ski hours are 9 a.m.- 4 p.m.