Copper Mountain starts seeding to spark a landscape-scale biodiversity effort

Copper Mountain’s 10-year plan to sink carbon into native grasses on ski slopes is one of many sustainability projects underway at Colorado ski areas that are working together to deflect the impacts of climate change

Southwestern University science students Logan Antone, left, and Cooper Phillips gather soil samples from a plot on Copper Mountain's Formidable ski run as professor Jennie DeMarco explains a 10-year carbon sequestration project. In the background, machines are clearing land for the luxury Born Mountain Club project, with a hotel, condos and slopeside homes.
Jason Blevins/The Colorado Sun

The Texas college students carefully charted the greenery on the ski slope and bagged soil samples as part of a multiyear study that will map out strategies for increasing biodiversity at ski areas. 

Several earthmovers growled in the background, scraping several acres of undeveloped land to make room for a private club, boutique hotel, condos and slopeside homes. 

“It’s hard not to notice that, isn’t it?” said Sheehan Meagher, a soil technician with the White River National Forest who was attending a conservation summit for ski resort sustainability leaders. “Maybe that is an example of where we are and where we are going? Hopefully.”

Copper Mountain has identified 558 acres on the front side of its ski area where soil work can help restore ecosystems and improve biodiversity to help lessen the snow-stealing blow of climate change. Last year the resort announced a 10-year carbon sequestration plan to plant carbon-storing plants and grasses on its ski slopes. The resort has tapped researchers at Southwestern University in Texas in the effort, with student scientists staking out test plots on five ski runs where they can monitor vegetation growth using native seeds, compost and biochar.

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