Escapes

Q:

What are the most eco-friendly ski resorts?

I feel guilty about the environmental impact of skiing at a resort—given the energy consumption of the chairlifts and grooming machines, not to mention the snowmaking. What are the most eco-friendly ski resorts?

Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley     Photo: Rennett Stowe/Flickr

A:The ski industry has a built-in incentive to mitigate global warming. But the chief reason they promote sustainability is that skiers and snowboarders like you generally care about the environment, and are more likely to buy a lift ticket at an eco-minded resort. Here’s my list of relatively guilt-free options, though none are nearly as low-impact as free-heeling in the woods.

Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado
Aspen/Snowmass has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 25 percent from 2000 levels within the next eight years. To achieve this, it has built a solar array that produces enough electricity to power 20 homes, and developed a small hydroelectric plant on Snowmass Mountain. It also established green building guidelines for its new buildings, and created an environmental foundation that has donated more than a million dollars to local environmental causes.

Squaw Valley, Californa
The resort’s aggressive sustainability campaign is a model for others around the world. It preserves the vegetation on its slopes through a multi-million-dollar conservation program, and its snowmaking facilities use water captured from snowmelt, rather than from the local water supply. Other efforts to reduce energy consumption and waste production include installing more efficient snow guns, putting a geothermal heat system in the children’s center, and using a trash-burning incinerator to provide heat to its Gold Coast complex.

Bolton Valley, Vermont
Unless you live in Burlington, you’ve probably never heard of Bolton, which is overshadowed by nearby Stowe, Sugarbush, and Mad River Glen. But this cozy ski area installed a 120-foot-tall wind turbine two years ago that produces enough electricity to power more than 40 homes.

Sundance Resort, Utah
Would you expect anything less from tree-hugging Robert Redford’s 5,000-acre resort in the Wasatch Mountains north of Provo?  Sundance offsets 100 percent of its power through wind energy credits. The resort also works to restore and conserve vegetation around the slopes, uses only green cleaning supplies in its lodge rooms, and uses an on-property kiln to turn discarded glass into art and housewares.

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