It’s been snowing like crazy here. The kids (if you can call 20- and 23-year-olds kids) are home for the holidays and many times during this most recent snowstorm here in the Northeast, someone mentions, “When are we going?” They are talking about skiing and snowboarding.
This post is the first of a few on the subject of greener skiing. It is a sport that I love and an industry that is not so lovely. The discussion here is about the ski industry’s environmental impact and sustainability. Other articles may include how families and individuals deal with the expense of skiing, DIY ski projects, ski homes and eco-ski vacations.
Like other aspects of home life, the issues that affect the economy and the environment are in the forefront when making choices for everything from choosing organic food, to how we renovate our homes, to recreation, and how much we spend on entertainment.
The ski industry notoriously gets a green thumbs down for being unfriendly to both the environment and our pocketbooks. How ski resorts deal with snow-making guns, high-speed lifts that suck up epic amounts of energy, parking lots that are amass with gas guzzling SUV’s, extravagant ski homes and the exorbitant cost of lift tickets over $80.00 at some areas, are under close scrutiny. The ski industry needs an eco-facelift.
Can skiers schuss down the mountain with a clear conscience? A very small percentage of ski areas are making a difference and it is relative in relation to their mega-carbon footprints. While the resorts are few and far between, some are making a nod to the environment that supplies their revenue. Adapted from a New York Times article earlier this year:
Jiminy Peak, built a 1.5-megawatt wind turbine that reaches 386 feet into the air, making it the first mountain resort in North America to install a wind turbine to generate power. The wind turbine will meet 33 percent of its electrical demand.
Mad River Glen has upgraded a single rickety chairlift. It is not getting scrapped. But the 58-year-old lift has been overhauled to make it faster, quieter and more energy efficient. The cooperative-owned mountain, one of the country’s few remaining, has no artificial snow-making.
Gore Mountain has transformed their Northwoods Lodge, an old gondola station to house the ski school, daycare and equipment rentals.
Breckenridge’s new BreckConnect gondola, saves 20,000 gallons of fuel each season by reducing shuttles.
Beaver Creek has a new eight-person gondola eliminating the need for shuttle buses to town.
Park City Mountain Resort’s heated walkway has been upgraded with a new boiler snowmelt system that is 98 percent more energy-efficient. To offset the walkway’s carbon output, the resort says it is considering planting more trees.
Jackson Hole. The ski resort is planning to offset 100 percent of its energy use with wind, biomass and other renewable energy sources.
For more information about how the ski industry addresses energy issues:
Sustainable Slopes, the environmental charter for ski areas.
Keep Winter Cool is a partnership between Natural Resources Defense Council and the National Ski Areas Association to raise visibility and public understanding of global warming and spotlight opportunities that exist to start fixing the problem.
The Ski Area Environmental Scorecard is the only non-industry, independent mechanism that gives skiers and boarders a way to assess the environmental performance of their favorite resorts.
SkiGreen is a partnership between the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF) and leaders in the winter sports industry to build support for non-polluting renewable sources of energy (such as wind and solar energy).
I still have kind of a ying/yang feeling about downhill skiing due to its nasty polluting past and expense. But, it is a sport that provides great family fun, healthy exercise and the environmental upgrades of some areas is encouraging. Do you ski green? Can green and skiing even coexist?
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.