Green Acres: Seven Eco-conscious Ski Resorts
These environmentally forward resorts will have you skiing green
January 17, 2007

We love to ski because we love the outdoors: The fresh, cold, clean mountain air; the awe-inspiring beauty of alpenglow lighting up the peaks; the joy and energy of just being outside and close to nature. But the hard truth is that every time we plunk down the hefty wad for a lift-ticket, we are giving money to a pretty un-nature-friendly industry—ski resorts. The good news is that 2006 was a banner year for eco-reform at U.S. resorts. More and more ski areas are doing more to protect the resource that provides their livelihood. Here’s seven of the West’s best, where you can put your green toward skiing green.

Alta Ski Resort, Utah
Photo by Alta

Jackson Hole, WY
Jackson Hole purchases wind energy to power three of its chairlifts, and they recently retrofitted buildings with high-efficiency lighting. They also have an extensive recycling and waste reduction program including the installation of a new, recycling trailer in Teton Village for homeowners and visitors. As for transportation, their vehicle fleet uses biodiesel, and they purchased bus passes for all employees and all season pass holders, resulting in roughly 24,000 less car trips per season.

Whistler, BC
Since 1998 they’ve garnered a bag full of relevant eco-awards for sustainability, and they’ve done so by reducing power consumption by 18% in the past two years alone; dedicating $320,000 for conservation initiatives in 2006/2007; and reducing waste by more than 540 tons per year.

Alta, Utah
After an energy audit with Rocky Mountain Power in 2005, Alta started implementing sweeping changes, including switching to fluorescent light bulbs and the use of radiant heat and timers in lift terminals. Last year they replaced the Watson Shelter mid-mountain restaurant with a highly efficient, sustainable, high-performance building on the cutting edge of green building practices. Alta is working with the Utah Society for Environmental Education to develop programs, and their waterless urinals save 40,000 gallons per unit, per year without using any chemical compounds.

Mount Bachelor, OR
Oregon has long been a bastion of all things green, and the state’s premier ski resort tows that line. Bachelor’s two longest lifts are now totally driven through wind power; their biodiesel-fueled Super Shuttle program saved 1.7 million employee and guest vehicle miles from the road last season; and their on mountain recycling program kept almost 50 tons of trash out of landfills last season alone.

Mammoth Mountain, CA
Mammoth has a commitment to educating visitors on the splendors--and fragility--of the Sierra landscape, and with its new, state-of-the-art Top of the Sierra Interpretive Center designed to educate visitors about the surrounding area and the dynamic nature of the Eastern Sierra, it has put its money where its mouth is. In keeping with their aggressive alternative-fuels program, they plan to tap the geothermal power of the nearby Mammoth Pacific power plant, becoming the first U.S. resort to use geothermal.

Sundance, Utah
Would you expect anything less from eco-icon Robert Redford? The Spa at Sundance--one of their most recent projects—is a veritable green building poster child, with low VOC paint, water-saving devices, energy-efficient lighting and heating, wallboard made from sunflower seed hulls, and dramatic beams made of trestle wood lumber salvaged from the Great Salt Lake. Taking their recycling seriously, they installed their own glassworks kiln where wine and other glass bottles are recycled into decorative art and housewares that are used around the property.

Aspen, CO
Aspen has the only green building policy in the snowsports industry. This policy has resulted in projects like the Snowmass Golf Clubhouse, which is LEED Silver Level certified by the U.S. Green Building Council, is heated and cooled using the pond on the 18th hole, and is one of the most energy-efficient commercial buildings in the state. In addition, all Aspen snowcats run on Biodiesel, and employees have donated—through a match program-- almost $1 million to date for local environmental causes like clean air and water, trail maintenance, and energy efficiency. Aspen was the first in the ski industry to make a significant purchase of renewable energy certificates, and they have established the largest solar photovoltaic system in the industry as well.

By Michael Oliver