This story was originally published by High Country News and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

At Eagles’ Nest in Colorado, atop a ridge above the town of Vail, visitors swooped down the mountain last summer on a brand-new alpine coaster, whose track loops like a loose ball of yarn through the conifer forests. And there were other attractions for the fun-seekers: a bungee trampoline, disc golf, climbing wall, ropes courses, and zipline tours.

These new attractions opened last summer at Eagle County’s Vail Mountain Resort thanks to a law passed by Congress five years ago, which expressly allows summer activities on the 122 U.S. ski areas that operate at least partly on federal lands.

The activity center at Vail, along with a similar development at Heavenly, a Lake Tahoe resort, represents the first application of this new authority. Colorado’s Copper Mountain and Breckenridge recently got Forest Service approval to add summer attractions, and dozens of other ski companies across the West are also readying their plans.

An employee tests the 1,200-foot-long zipline, which opened summer 2016 for Vail Resorts' summer activities.
An employee tests the 1,200-foot-long zipline, which opened summer 2016 for Vail Resorts’ summer activities. Vail Resorts/AndrewTaylor

The added features strengthen a resort’s economic resilience, says Arthur De Jong, the mountain planning and environmental resource manager at Whistler Blackcomb in British Columbia, which has an alpine coaster, ziplines, and a mountain bike park. U.S. ski areas, which often lose money over the summer, are hoping to generate additional revenue to help cover year-round costs for everything from lifts to employee housing.

But that’s not the only reason: Looming over the shoulder of many ski areas, particularly those in the Sierra Nevada and at lower elevations elsewhere, is the specter of a changing climate. Summer attractions may help resorts offset losses incurred as warmer temperatures nibble away at the ski season. “Climate change makes it all the more imperative,” says De Jong.