I guess it’s the latest craze – go green, go off-grid, reduce your “carbon footprint,” calculate your impact, offset your emissions… whatever you would like to call it. We have been hearing this buzz in the media for a few years now and it has only been escalated since President Obama stepped foot in to the White House, but how does it really affect the ski resort industry? We have visions of white bosom slopes being as pure and natural as anything we can experience; marketing executives display pictures of solar panels and eco-friendly public transportation; even the beer is often local, reducing transportation impacts! In reality, a gondola runs on a huge diesel engine, the base lodge is powered by the local coal plant, and most the warming huts burn propane or some form of heating oil… we don’t have any great solutions, yet, to operate this type of equipment in a eco-friendlier manner.
Over the years environmentalists have protested the building of ski resorts, as they disrupt the natural ecosystem. Back in the mid-1990’s the Two Elk Lodge sitting atop Vail’s back bowls was burnt to the ground by radical environmentalists (of course it was only rebuilt, LARGER, for the next season). I don’t think we will see the end to these conflicts for a long time. However, I do think we are gradually meeting in the middle. New products including waterless urinals, made by Falcon Waterfree, reduce the need to pump water for toilets up from lakes or the town below; more efficient appliances reduce the electricity required to cook a cheeseburger or to operate the rope-tow; and since the beer is often local, it actually tastes better, since you know it’s environmental impact was minimal!
Recently, I read an article that explained the findings from a survey by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition on “environmental friendliness.” — rating resorts on everything from how a resort protects habitats, to addressing climate change, to embracing sustainability practices. I think the mere act of this survey and published report is a fantastic move in the right direction, towards awareness and hopefully it will stimulate some friendly competition among resorts to be “greener” than their neighbors.
Lastly, if you are truly as interested as I am, check out Treehugger’s guide on How to Go Green Skiing! (see the link below)