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 . world ski news
07 December 2008 - 20:30
Ski resorts cashing in on thinking green
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When you think about skiing this year, the color the resorts want you to think about is not white, but green. Not green grass or greenbacks, but green as in environmental consciousness. Like recycling, buying wind power or using snowmaking equipment that requires less energy.

Such "green" activities are not new at ski resorts. But an increased vigilance about global warming has given such practices greater import.

And public consciousness about the environment has turned "sustainability practices" into something that ski resorts can market.

"The economy has changed, the business environment for the resorts has changed," said Jim Van Dyke, vice president of environmental sustainability for Jiminy Peak in Hancock, Mass. "Being green is worthy of people's attention."

Jiminy Peak is perhaps the "greenest" of any local resort because of the mountain's $3.9 million wind turbine. The turbine, installed last year, powers up to half the mountain's electricity, and also generates revenue for the business by selling the excess to the electricity grid.

Other mountains are taking other steps to limit environmental impact, though some are trying harder than others.

At Vermont's Bromley Mountain, the resort is burning its deep-frying oil in a specialized furnace, which keeps the workshop heated all winter long. It also burns used motor oil from the snow grooming machines.

That means the mountain doesn't have to consume up to 1,000 gallons of fuel oil, said Dustin Gordon, the shop foreman. The resort has also expanded its recycling program, which doesn't sound like a big deal until you take into account the mountain's tiny base lodge. With space at a premium, officials bought garbage cans with built-in recycling bins on top.

"It was the only place we could put them — we don't have any room," said marketing manager Peter Dee.

Nearby Stratton Mountain just opened a "green-certified" inn, but its policies may not exactly be world-saving — the hotel uses recycled toilet paper, nontoxic cleaning products and puts recycling bins in every room, among other measures. Still it's a start.

In the Catskills, Belleayre is doing its part by not producing marketing pamphlets this year, instead relying on online advertising (no doubt also a money-saving venture for the state-owned resort during a time of economic crisis). And neighbor Windham is buying wind energy to power three of its lifts. The mountain is also ramping up a recycling program to improve the way it limits waste. And a new private club built at the base lodge was made using timber harvested from a nearby mushroom farm.

Like many resorts, Windham has also invested in more efficient snow-making equipment, which use less power and allow the mountain to make snow at warmer temperatures. The fan-based system is also a lot quieter, which makes it possible to make snow without annoying the owners of the expensive weekend homes built around its base area.

Also like many resorts, being environmentally-conscious is not new to Windham. In 1989, the mountain built a compressor system to help power its snowmaking equipment (pressurized air is mixed with water to make snow from nozzles). The heat generated by these giant machines is used to heat the nearby base lodge, saving in heating bills.

"We're in this business because we love the outdoors," said general manager Tim Woods. "It's great to save money, but that's not the sole reason for doing these things."

As global warming becomes a front-burner issue, ski resorts have a big stake in the future. It only takes a few degrees difference these days to turn a major snowstorm into just another rain shower.

Ski resorts have not always been seen in the most environmentally-friendly light. In 1998, environmental extremists burnt down a brand-new mountaintop lodge at the Vail ski resort in Colorado, saying the development was encroaching on wildlife. Several members of the Eugene, Ore.-based Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front were later sent to prison for that and other fires. The fire occurred after Vail had started an expansion project, which protestors said would encroach on nearby lynx habitats. The expansion went on anyway.

More close to home, Killington resort in Vermont came under fire more than a decade ago after purchasing the nearby Pico. Officials had planned to connect the two resorts, but hikers opposed it, saying it would ruin part of the Appalachian Trail, which goes right over the summit. The plan was eventually dropped, although the mountain's new corporate owners say they are still considering it.

Ski resorts, as an environmentally-conscious industry, get mixed reviews. The companies have a habit of expanding into virgin woods, said Kristina Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Sierra Club. And running lifts and making snow requires a huge amount of energy.

But on the other hand, most ski resorts are making earnest efforts to cut down on their environmental footprint, she said.

"One of the things that has been really exciting to see is the way the ski industry has taken a lead role in energy conservation," she said. "The ski industry has a huge stake in our energy policy and energy conservation. Global warming has the potential to bring the industry to its knees."

What resorts are doing

Ski resorts around the region are bragging about the steps they've taken to be more environmentally conscious. Here's a few examples:

Windham: Better recycling, more efficient snow guns, reusing heat from compressors to heat base lodge.

Belleayre: Not printing promotional pamphlets this year.

Bromley: Burning used frying oil and motor oil to heat the maintenance workshop.

Stratton: Just opened a "green-certified" inn with recycling programs and non-toxic cleaning products.

Jiminy Peak: Continues to generate wind power from its summit turbine.

By ALAN WECHSLER, Staff writer
TimesUnion.com
First published in print: Sunday, December 7, 2008

Alan Wechsler can be reached at 454 5469 or awechsler@timesunion.com


 
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Next:
Italy's Fanchini posts maiden win in Lake Louise – 07 December 2008 - 23:51
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Norway, Finland win cross-country World Cup relays – 07 December 2008 - 18:53
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