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Green Initiatives Gripping the Ski Industry

Jiminy_Peak_TurbineA little bit of green can make the white stuff go a long way.

Under the pressure of the ever-growing sustainability movement, ski resorts worldwide are bolstering efforts to transform operations into eco-friendly ventures.

Green initiatives at ski areas are far-reaching, yet currently the most popular method is generating alternative energy via wind turbines and similar sources such as solar and hydro energy.

Under $582,000 technology grant, Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts in 2007, became the first resort in North America to implement true green technology, building a 1.5-megawatt turbine that provides 33% of the resort’s electrical needs.

Four years on, Vail Resorts, which operates five separate ski destinations, is now the second-largest purchaser of renewable energy in North America.

The Green Ski Resort Guide, operated by Patrick Thorne, reports that 60% of the 250 leading ski resorts worldwide now implement some form of renewable energy. And, about one-third of those resorts rely completely on renewable energy for all of their energy demands.

One of those places is the renowned Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Wyoming where officials are offsetting 100% of energy needs through the use of wind, biomass and other renewable energy sources.

As the people in Jackson Hole know, turbines and generators aren’t the only tools for success as resorts look to other resources that foster the most minimal carbon footprint possible.

One example is Ratnik Industries, the world’s leader in artificial snowmaking, whose equipment today requires 20% of the energy it needed in the 1970s – providing resorts huge savings on their biggest line item in terms of cost. Not to mention, requiring far less energy to run the mountain on the whole.

Another venture involves filling snow grooming and snowmobile tanks with bio-diesel rather than gasoline. X-Games host Aspen prides itself on equipping its entire SnoCat fleet with B20 bio-diesel fuel.

Ski areas also offer carpooling incentives similar to Arapahoe Basin in Colorado where skiers can receive 20% off the cost of your lift ticket if they arrive with four-or-more in their vehicle – saving folks money, but more importantly limiting the amount of fuel used. Other locales such as Breckinridge and Beaver Creek operate people-moving gondolas, which cut down on carbon-emitting shuttles and busses.

The burden of environmental responsibility does not fall squarely on resorts; individuals should adopt certain practices fundamental to fostering green slopes. Experts are calling upon ski-goers to buy ‘green’ equipment, utilize biodegradable wax, carpool on trips and recycle goods at the lodge or rental properties.

Of equal importance for skiers is sticking to the slopes and avoiding skiing areas where vegetation and the environment is easily damaged. Not to mention that going out-of-bounds poses unnecessary risk for skiers and rescuers alike.

As the movement grows, ski resorts and skiers will be called upon in unison to remain ever mindful as they operate and patron slopes.

Ryan O'Leary

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