Ski-area expansions in Colorado and other Western states may please skiers, but they rile environmentalists.
The annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard - prepared by an environmental coalition including Denver's Rocky Mountain Wild - found nearly a third of Western ski areas surveyed in 2012 either expanded terrain or planned to develop new terrain.
The growth in ski-area footprints led the Ski Area Citizens' Coalition to assign a lot of "Ds," including four for resorts in Colorado. Those four resorts - Breckenridge, Eldora, Monarch and Steamboat - did not expand but have announced potential plans to add terrain. Only Breckenridge of those four has federal approval to grow.
Copper Mountain and Arapahoe Basin Ski Area came out on top among Summit County ski areas in the annual report.
Both earned "Bs" on the report-card style analysis of resorts' efforts to protect habitat and watersheds, address global climate change and implement environmental policies and practices.
The Ski Area Citizens' Coalition gave Keystone a "C." The resort won high ratings for habitat and watershed protection, but got bottom marks in the categories of addressing global climate change and environmental policies and practices.
"Far and away the biggest environmental impact that a ski area can have is to expand into virgin terrain," said Joshua Pollock with Rocky Mountain Wild, noting that 27 of 84 Western ski areas surveyed expanded or planned expansions in 2012. "Regardless of the reasons, we have to look critically at any expansion and really ask whether or not it is necessary and whether the ski experience can be addressed or improved by making ... improvements on existing terrain."
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