Report: ski areas becoming greener as flow of green decreases

Colorado ski resorts seem to be getting much better environmental marks these days from a grassroots activist group that ranks them based on recycling programs, development projects, energy efficiency and terrain expansion – but that may just be because of the down economy.

The Ski Area Citizens Coalition released its annual environmental report card, and mega-resorts like Vail and Snowmass both received B’s. But Vail Resorts’ Breckenridge ski area got a D, presumably because of its bid to expand ski terrain and add a lift at Peak 6.

“Ski resorts are doing a lot more to invest in the resort as far as efficiency upgrades, producing renewable energy on site, things like that,” SACC research director Paul Joyce told the Vail Daily, adding the recent recession has kept resorts from building real estate or expanding terrain. “The ski resorts don’t have a lot of extra money, the banks aren’t lending and there isn’t a lot of money for big development.”

Aspen Skiing Company, acknowledged as an industry leader on environmental front, once again got all A’s for its four mountain, except for Snowmass. But in some ways it seems as if smaller is better when it comes to the SACC rankings.

Small and remote Wolf Creek in southern Colorado got an A, but Telluride and Purgatory at Durango Mountain in Southwest Colorado both got B’s.

According to the Durango Herald, Telluride lost points because of its Revelation Bowl expansion in 2008. Joyce said the resort is always looking to do new projects.

“Telluride seems to be on a different trajectory asking all kinds of crazy questions about expansion,” Joyce told the Herald. “If they appear to be pursuing those developments, it will affect their grade. They will have to weigh their grade with the bottom line.”

There has been no new major ski resort built in Colorado in 30 years (since Beaver Creek, which received a C), and increasingly resorts have tried to expand existing terrain to offer snow riders something new every few years.

Generally, environmental groups have looked more favorably on small terrain expansions at existing areas than proposals for new resorts on public lands.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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