How Green Are Your Slopes? In Search of an Eco-Conscious Ski Vacation

Wendy Worrall Redal by Wendy Worrall Redal | February 9th, 2010 | No Comments
topic: Green Living

Skier in Green Jacket

When it comes to global warming, few enterprises have more at stake than the ski industry. So it’s no surprise that many ski resorts have taken steps toward greening their operations, relying less on CO2-producing energy sources and more on renewables.

Breckenridge has installed solar-powered ticket scanners. Mount Hood Meadows is using biodiesel in its fleet of buses, snow cats and snow removal equipment. Aspen Skiing Corporation and Vail Resorts, operating nine mountains in total, are offsetting 100% of the ski areas’ electricity use through the purchase of wind energy.

In its quest for an entirely carbon-neutral operation, Vail is now the second largest corporate purchaser of wind power in the U.S. The company says its efforts will prevent 211 million pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking 18,000 cars off the road or planting more than 27,000 acres of trees, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Resorts are practicing other forms of environmental stewardship, too. Stowe diverts 84% of its compostable waste to a local farmer for soil nutrients. Smuggler’s Notch has reduced the impact of its snowmaking operations by building a 20-million gallon reservoir to protect conservation flows, necessary to sustain aquatic life, when stream levels are low.

Wonder how your favorite ski area is doing?  See if they’ve signed on to Sustainable Slopes: The Environmental Charter for Ski Areas, a project of the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA). Check out the Green Room, the U.S. ski industry’s environmental database that monitors eco-activity.

But be sure you’re getting the whole story. Critics of the industry suggest that some of its claims are “greenwashing”–publicity meant to mask other environmental offenses. The Ski Area Citizens Coalition is an independent group that assesses overall environmental responsibility, publishing an annual eco-report card on resorts, including the Ten Best and Ten Worst.

See, too, the most recent winners of Clif Bar’s Golden Eagle Awards for Environmental Excellence, established in 1993 to recognize the environmental achievements of ski areas. Planning to hit the piste in the Alps? Visit the Ski Club of Great Britain’s Green Resort Guide for environmental ratings of European resorts.

If you’re a skier or snowboarder concerned about the future of your sport, spread the word about the campaign to Keep Winter Cool.  It’s a partnership between NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and NSAA to raise visibility and public understanding of global warming and spotlight immediate opportunities to fix the problem.


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