White Goes Green — Eco-Friendly Ski Resorts

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You need two things for (downhill) skiing — a mountainside and snow — and in many places across the populated parts of the world, snow seems to be getting scarcer. Resort operators cope by making more snow themselves, but in many places, they’re also taking action to reduce their contribution to the greenhouse gasses blamed for global warming.

Vail Resorts, in Colorado, has signed up to get all of its energy from wind power. Rather than cover the hillsides with turbines, the company has signed on for energy credits via its local power grid. The actual wind power will be generated elsewhere, probably by farmers looking for ways to enhance their income. The company also offered a free one-day lift ticket to anyone who signs up to use renewable power in their own homes for a year.

Other resorts, such as Jiminy Creek in Massachusetts, are taking advantage of their mountaintop locations to capture the wind in turbines of their own. The Jiminy Creek turbine now under construction will supply about one-third of the resort’s energy use. There are now at least 19 ski resorts in North America that rely 100 percent on wind power, according to the New York Times. They include the Vail resorts, Okemo Mountain Resort in Vermont, Crested Butte Mountain Resort in Colorado and Mount Ashland, Oregon. In the U.S., the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) sponsors a Sustainable Slopes campaign. Operators who sign on agree to uphold a climate policy and take steps to reduce their environmental footprint.

In the U.K., the Respect the Mountain campaign has compiled an online “green guide” to ski resorts worldwide. The guide will tell you whether your favorite resort uses green power, if they have a climate policy, if they recycle and manage their wasterwater responsibly.

Personally, I’m a little dubious of most of these efforts… when you think of the typical ski resort, swarming with SUV drivers and private-jet passengers, the spacious lodges soaking up energy for heat and light and big TVs, etc. etc, it’s hardly eco-friendly. It’s kind of as if your local big-box store went wind-power… that would be nice, but it would be a lot better to shop locally, and buy less stuff. Still, the ski resort efforts are better than nothing, and if you like to visit these kind of places, the links above will help you find one that at least is making an effort to green up.

Or, you could just strap on some cross-country skis and head out the back door for your dose of low-impact wintry exercise.

Find out more:
Grist examines the green-ski initiatives.