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No damage to Mauna Kea from skiing and snowboarding incident, University of Hawaii reports

The University of Hawaii today said its investigation into the ski and snowboard incident at Mauna Kea earlier this year found no damage to cultural, archaeological, natural or scientific resources.

However, UH said the incident highlighted the need for administrative rules to be in place for public and commercial activities on its managed lands on Mauna Kea, which the university is currently pursuing.

In late January, a video posted to social media showed three men known as professional athletes skiing and snowboarding down Pu‘u Poli‘ahu, a revered volcanic cone on Hawaii island’s Mauna Kea — directly on the bare dirt and rocks — because there was no snow at the time.

The university on Feb. 6 denounced the incident, which drew widespread condemnation and eventually, an apology by those involved.

The UH Hilo Office of Maunakea Management staff completed its investigation on Feb. 13, which included a retracing of the most-likely route used by the three perpetrators from start to finish, including where they likely exited their vehicle, then walked past the sign indicating the area as Pu‘u Poli‘ahu, a Hawaiian sacred site, hiked to the top, and then back downslope.

UH said there was no legal recourse to penalize the individuals because no laws were broken.

“UH is in the process of developing administrative rules, an essential resource management tool that would address these types of situations,” said the university in its press release. “UH is currently seeking public comment on the latest draft.”

Under the current draft of administrative rules, skiing and snowboarding in the same area as the incident, or when it is snow-free anywhere on the summit, would be prohibited. The university would also be able to cite and fine offenders, and impose a monetary assessment to recover costs related to damage resulting from violations.

The public is invited to comment on the informal draft by sending an email to MKRules@hawaii.edu or in writing to the UH Government Relations Office, 2442 Campus Road, Administrative Services Building 1-101, Honolulu, HI, 96822.

A second round of formal public hearings is tentatively scheduled for spring with an updated draft based on feedback.

The deadline for informal comments is 4:30 p.m. on March 15.

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