Ski areas place no credibility in "environmental scorecard’
SUMMIT COUNTY – A recent report grading the environmental practices at Western ski resorts didn’t give Summit and Eagle County areas favorable marks. Resort officials in those counties, however, are taking the results with a grain of salt.
Authorities at Summit and Eagle county ski resorts find the Ski Area Citizen’s Coalition (SACC) environmental scorecards to be biased and therefore meaningless, and these resorts don’t participate in the surveys SACC uses to gather information.
“We don’t feel confident in this scorecard’s ability to tell the entire story – that’s why we choose not to participate in this questionnaire,” said Ben Friedland, spokesman for Copper Mountain Resort. “We do, however, support the environmental charter and sustainable slopes initiative through the National Ski Area Association (NSAA).”
Eric Stein, Vail Resorts’ assistant general counsel specializing in environmental issues, agreed.
“It’s very apparent from the scorecard that this group is primarily concerned with (opposing) expansions,” he said. “It’s the first issue that comes up and the one they give the most points to. That we follow NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) policies, that we work with the Forest Service is a non-issue to them. The survey is not set up in an equitable manner to truly judge a ski area’s environmental scorecard.”
SACC is composed of committee organizations from Colorado Wild, the Crystal Conservation Coalition of Washington, Friends of the Inyo and the Sierra Nevada Alliance in California and Save Our Canyons of Utah.
The coalition evaluated resorts using 10 criteria, including new or proposed terrain expansion, commercial development on undisturbed land, impacts to environmentally sensitive areas such as wetlands and roadless areas, increased snowmaking, protecting water quality, conservation and vehicle emissions reduction.
Ski officials say SACC’s evaluations are biased against ski areas in general and don’t take everything into account when rating environmental practices on the slopes. The scorecard appears to punish resorts for expanding terrain or base-area development – or even considering those expansions, all of which must undergo extensive scrutiny under NEPA.
For example, the scorecard gives no credit for on-mountain mitigation at Breckenridge that involved enlarging a wetlands area. As expected, SACC gave the resort no points for its expansion on Peak 7 – but it also issued no points for the resort’s environmentally sensitive methods of removing trees.
“We don’t give any credit to the report,” said Kristin Rust, communications director for Colorado Ski Country USA. “Most people in the industry and media understand it’s not worth its weight. People support our resorts and their environmental efforts. The programs stand on their own.”
Those programs run the gamut, from recycling aluminum cans to buying wind-
generated power to run lifts.
Summit and Eagle county ski resorts participate in numerous environmentally friendly projects, but SACC isn’t aware of all of them because none of Summit or Eagle county’s resorts responded to the SACC survey.
Officials at every one of Summit and Eagle counties’ ski resorts declined to fill out a survey distributed by the SACC, primarily because they don’t consider the environmental group to be reputable or fair.
Kelly Ladyga, director of corporate communications for Vail Resorts, said she didn’t think submitting the surveys would have garnered the company’s ski areas higher grades. Instead, Vail Resorts – and most other ski areas throughout the state – participate in the National Ski Area Association’s annual survey. That organization posts its results in a “green room” at http://www.nsaa.org. The Web site is updated as new projects are implemented.
“We take the role as environmental steward very seriously in educating hundreds of thousands of guests who may not have an understanding or appreciation for ecosystems,” Ladyga said. “Our resorts become a tool to educate.”
SACC compiles the scorecard using public documents and information compiled from ski resorts. The goal is to help skiers determine where they want to ski, based on the environmental records of each resort.
“From what we’ve seen, it hasn’t shifted skier visits – or resort projects – in the least,” Rust said. “It’s zero percent effective. Skiers make their decision on where the snow is, where they can get best deal and where they’re loyal to.”
The following is a list of some of the environmental efforts in which Summit County ski resorts engage. Sources: Individual resorts and the National Ski Area
Association’s Green Room.
n Recycle: paper, glass, plastic, etc.
n Switched snowcats and other vehicles to biodiesel
n Reduced snowmobile fleet
n Offers employees carpool
n Posts environmental mission on maps
n Three erosion control containment specialists on site to prevent, control erosion
n Locker room redesign incorporates new heating system, low-energy lights
n Diverts at least 34 percent of solid wastes from landfill to recycling or other disposal
n Purchases wind-generated energy to operate T-bar
n Mulched trees removed from Peak 7 expansion for composting at Climax Mine reclamation project
n Recycling bins at restaurants, tops of lifts, at warming and ski patrol huts
n Wood, mostly from worn decks, is mulched. Resort is testing artificial wood products in other areas and plans to include it in future projects
n Recycles scrap metal and vehicle, flashlight, radio, cell phone and avalanche transceivers’ batteries
n Used oil and fluids sent to facilities for proper disposal
n Aerosol cans are punctured and contents drained through a filter that is sent to a center for disposal
n Mechanics use cloth rags, not paper towels
n Three photovoltaic cells at the base of C Lift generate electricity for the machine that tabulates information from five ticket-scanners; solar panels recharge scanner batteries
n Is implementing biodiesel in snowcats and other diesel-powered vehicles on the mountain
n Recycling: glass, plastic, paper, etc.
n Developed the Collaborative Front-Loaded Interagency Process to keep the public apprised of activity related to ski area projects and approvals
n Restoring 2,100 feet of fish and riparian habitats in West Tenmile Creek
n Locating all wetlands within the resorts’ permitted area to protect the resources
n A 2002 Mountain Sports Media Silver Eagle award for Waste Reduction and Recycling
n Curbside recycling collection from ski area properties from Ski Tip to Keystone Ranch and from top and bottom of every major lift
n Buys wind-generated energy from cel Energy that powers a lift
n Solar-powered information center that sometimes generates excess energy, which is fed back into the electrical grid
n Information center built using green-building practices and using materials left over from other projects
n Energy efficient lighting systems implemented when old ones reach the end of their life spans
n Snowcats that are 25 percent more efficient than older models
n Uses four-stroke snowmobiles, which, although they have less power, are cleaner and quieter than two-stroke machines
n Reduced vehicle fleet by 20 percent through purchase of vehicles that hold more people
n Keystone Ranch restaurant uses 3.5-cubic-yard tub for composting
n Purchased 15 to 20 gas-powered Kawasaki Mules, similar to the electric GEMs
n Education: environmental displays featuring the natural environment, history of the Snake River Valley and local flora and fauna
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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