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Ski Green: Ideas for Eco-Friendly Skiing

Ski Green: Ideas for Eco-Friendly Skiing

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:

NORTHEAST

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.

COLORADO ROCKIES

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.

WEST

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.

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Ronnie Citron-Fink

Ronnie Citron-Fink is a writer, editor and educator. She has written hundreds of articles about sustainable living, the environment, design, and family life for websites, books and magazines. Ronnie is the creator of Econesting, and the managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force. Ronnie was named one of the Top Ten Living Green Experts by Yahoo. Ronnie lives in New York with her family.

7 comments

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3:57AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

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12:52AM PST on Dec 31, 2012

The post is outstanding ..... bravo :) visit http://www.snowsportdeals.com/ for skiing equipments like skiing poles, boards and boots :)

10:33AM PDT on Jun 19, 2009

thankyou...
Kabin
Konteyner
mega kabin

10:44AM PST on Jan 21, 2009

Bonneville Environmental Foundation's SkiGreen program and Clif Bar have partnered for the "Think Globally, Ski Locally" campaign. Check out this blog and tell us how you SkiGreen: http://blog.skigreen.org/

When you register to blog you can enter a sweepstakes to win prizes like a season pass for 2009/10 to your local ski area or a snowboard autographed by Jeremy Jones!

2:13PM PST on Jan 12, 2009

Not as easily accessible and something that requires more work and a higher level of experience and knowledge is back country skiing. Hike up with a partner or group, make sure you have your AST and proper gear.

A number of places near Vancouver, BC such as Mount Seymour is easily accessible by combination public transit and shuttle bus... really!! No car required, no lift used and a spectacular connection to nature. You may only get one or two runs in in a very long day, but it's like nothing a resort can even come close to!

Something to definitely consider more so than skiing at a resort is the safety aspect. One must know their limits, have the proper training (AST) and be able to knowledgeably calculate their risks.

I know back country is not for everyone, but if it's something you like or would consider, think about it for your next ski trip :)

Hey, there's people that pay $1000 / day for heli skiing, this is way more eco responsible and better exercise :)

Earn your turns, it's the greener alternative to lift based skiing :)

Cheers,
Jerry

9:26AM PST on Jan 12, 2009

I am a ski instructor and trip leader for our local ski club. When we visit resorts, many have questionaires about the facilities. I always encourage them to increase recycling, use more alternative energy, and otherwise be aware that consumers want greener skiing. Skking does use energy, but it gets people outside in a natural setting and active. That has to be better than watching tv or playing video games.

Cathy

6:43AM PST on Jan 11, 2009

www.saveoursnow.com has information on what ski resorts are doing to be green all over the world.

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