Conservation takes hold on the slopes

For far too long, skiers worldwide have generally accepted the fact that construction of a ski resort can have a significant impact on the environment.

Consider what happens when a ski resort is built: Trees are cleared to make way for the ski slopes, thus disrupting wildlife habits and vegetation and altering natural watersheds. Cars driving to the resort area create pollution, as does equipment used to make snow, maintain the slopes or mow grass during summer months, not to mention heating buildings during cold winters. In some cases, factories that make clothing and equipment for skiing could be located nearby, and they create even more pollution.

It comes as no surprise then that ski resorts are quickly becoming examples of how an industry can build green initiatives into its operations and make a significant difference in reducing its carbon footprint.

So much so, that a group called the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition has been formed to rate and survey ski resorts based on criteria from local conservation groups and the U.S. Forest Service.

The emphasis for ski resorts has been to have general conservation and environment-friendly policies and procedures in place, specifically for habitat protection, watershed protection and addressing climate change.

The coalition looks at all aspects of a ski resort operation, from recycling to future plans – and sometimes those future plans don’t sit well. It is generally believed that smaller ski resorts grade better than those that are constantly expanding, because that expansion is sure to affect the environment.

Some ski resorts have been on board with energy savings for many years. Aspen Ski Country in Colorado has one of the largest solar-power systems in the industry, which has been in place since 1997. It also fuels its trail-grooming machines with biodiesel fuel.

Park City Mountain Resort in Utah has reported that it uses renewable energy to power chair lifts and has purchased more efficient snow-making equipment, while also cutting back on its snowmobile fleet.

In a gesture that proves no conservation policy is too small to make a difference, the resort also has been using recycled paper for its trail maps and began using regular dishes rather than disposable ones in all of its lodges.

Other examples for resorts come in the form of using biofuel from recycled cooking oil to power shuttles, and using non-petroleum-based cleaners for all housekeeping.

As more ski resorts take hold of these conservation methods, skiers across the world will be able to say they participate in a sport trying to make an environmental difference.


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