Grading the greeness of your favorite Colorado ski area

A Durango-based nonprofit ski-industry watchdog group issued its annual environmental scorecard last week, ranking four Colorado resorts in the top 10 with “A” grades and flunking two in the bottom 10 with “F’s”.

Aspen Skiing Company resorts once again did well in the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition scorecard, with Aspen Mountain, Buttermilk and Aspen Highlands all earning A’s for everything from ambitious recycling programs to generating renewable energy to minimizing impacts to surrounding public land. The other Colorado resort in the top 10 was Telluride, also earning an A.

“Most volunteers and staff of SACC are skiers themselves, and recognize skiing as a valid use of public lands,” the group’s Web site states. “We also recognize that not all ski areas are the same when it comes to environmental protection.”

Ranking in the bottom 10 with F’s were the two Summit County resorts of Copper Mountain and Breckenridge, the state’s busiest ski area. Both areas — owned by the rival mega-resort companies of Intrawest and Vail Resorts, respectively — were flunked because of major ongoing base-area real estate development projects viewed as unnecessary by the SACC.

Other Vail Resorts’ mountains in the state — Beaver Creek, Keystone and Vail — all earned C’s, while the two other ski areas either owned or operated by Intrawest — Steamboat and Winter Park — earned a C and D, respectively.

Ski industry officials argue the scorecard doesn’t give enough credit for sustainability programs like purchasing wind-credit offsets and grades too harshly for any sort of redevelopment or expansion, no matter how small the project. Vail Resorts and several other major ski companies refuse to participate in the group’s annual grading system.

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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