Don’t worry, we don’t mean there isn’t any snow. Sierra ski resorts are working hard, however, to be true stewards of the environment.
By Thea Marie Rood
What you may not know about these increasingly “green” businesses:
The Climate Reality Project, founded by Al Gore 11 years ago, has now turned its attention to the ski industry. At the Paris climate conference, the group unveiled its campaign I am Pro Snow, which urges ski resorts to shift to 100 percent clean energy by 2030. It has enlisted pro skiers and snowboarders as ambassadors, like Squaw Valley native Jackie Paaso, and appeals to companies’ bottom line: Installing solar panels and wind turbines significantly lowers the costs of making snow (which takes half of most resorts’ energy budgets).
The national organization Climate Challenge publishes an annual report of ski areas that are reducing their climate impact. Local members of this voluntary program include Boreal, Soda Springs, Mammoth, June Mountain, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Green improvements by these resorts include washable dishes in the bar, new high-efficiency snow guns, LED lighting, vegetable oil from the cafeteria used as biodiesel to run the chairlifts, eliminating plastic water bottles, reducing water usage, and offering carpool incentives and electric vehicle charging stations.
Sugar Bowl was designated the fourth greenest resort in the U.S. by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition because of its use of 100 percent green energy and green building practices.
The upcoming Audi FIS Women’s Alpine World Cup at Squaw Valley will be 100 percent carbon neutral. A combination of certified carbon credits and clean energy will offset all mountain operations (snowmaking, lifts and grooming), as well as all participants’ travel, accommodations and meals.
Vail Resorts Management Company, which owns Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, has reduced its energy use by 10 percent and plans to reduce another 10 percent before 2020. The company also returns 80 percent of the water used in snowmaking to the watershed, and diverts 40 percent of its waste to composting and recycling or reuse. Finally, more than 9,000 volunteers have supported 58 wildlife or habitat projects in forests surrounding the ski areas.