All skiers yearn for the slopes to be white. Growing numbers wish they were green, too.
In response, dozens of ski resorts are trying to lighten their load on the planet (not an easy task, considering the forest-scalping and other impacts associated with ski areas). How are they doing?
The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition (SACC) recently answered that question in its annual “environmental scorecard,” which grades western U.S. ski resorts on their overall eco-friendliness. With 100 percent as a perfect score, here’s how Montana’s slopes fared, ranked in order of letter grade and percentage points earned:
– Moonlight Basin Resort: B, 73
– Bridger Bowl Ski Area: B, 68.2
– Big Sky Resort: C, 65.2
– Whitefish Mountain Resort: C, 61.3
– Lost Trail Ski Area: C, 59.8
– Montana Snowbowl: C, 58
– Red Lodge Resort: C, 58
The SACC bases its rankings on a complicated series of criteria, including how resorts are protecting habitats, preserving watersheds, addressing climate change, and embracing sustainable practices.
Downhill ski operations always involve environmental impacts, the group acknowledges — but the report is not greenwashing, it says. The goal is “to differentiate between those ski areas that truly engage in environmentally sound practices versus those that merely claim to do so.”
Resorts at the head of the class were the ones that (among other things) stifled the urge to expand terrain, which wreaks havoc on ecosystems, involving everything from logging and erosion to wetlands destruction. Here, economics have been at war with the environment: in an effort to make money and attract dwindling numbers of skiers nationwide, some resorts have engaged in expansion schemes that involve unsustainable development, both environmentally and financially. (For more on ski resort bankruptcies, click here.)
For example, in Colorado’s Vail-Aspen-Breckenridge-Copper Mountain ski-tropolis, “skier numbers have increased 28 percent since 1985, yet skier acreage has more than doubled (a 107 percent increase).”
But other resorts are taking significant steps to minimize harm. Here are the SACC’s straight-”A”-winning top 10:
1. Squaw Valley – California (89.7)
2. Aspen Mountain Ski Resort – Colorado (86.1)
3. Buttermilk Mountain Ski Resort – Colorado (85.7)
4. Sugar Bowl Ski Resort – California (82.3)
5. Sundance Resort – Utah (82.2)
6. Alpine Meadows Ski Area – California (82)
7. Park City Mountain Resort – Utah (81.7)
8. Bogus Basin Mountain Resort – Idaho (81.3)
9. Aspen Highlands Ski Resort – Colorado (80.3)
10. Powderhorn Resort – Colorado (79.4)
Shredders can reduce their carbon ski-prints, too, of course. Easy options include some obvious ones: carpool when you go to the slope, leave the Hummer at home, and don’t buy plastic bottles of H2O. In addition:
–If you can choose where to ski, choose green. Check out the state-by-state lists at SACC or find a green resort in the handy database provided by the National Ski Areas Association.
– Check out Treehugger’s “How to Go Green” guide for skiing and snowboarding, which has all sorts of, well, tips. Or join the SkiGreen program, which offers carbon offsets for skiers, and more.
For more info, go to the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition.