Asking which ski area is the most sustainable is kind of like asking which model Hummer is most fuel-efficient. We all know the guilt factors involved with skiing and snowboarding: the deforestation, the rampant slopeside development, and the fact that a typical mega-resort probably consumes more energy in a day--making snow and powering its chairlifts--than a typical Third World country. But it's so much damn fun!
The smartest resort companies are gaining a competitive advantage by lessening the guilt. They're generating sustainable energy to power their facilities, building ultra-green lodges and condos, even running their Snowcats on biofuels. Here are the most forward-thinking of the bunch:
3. Bolton Valley, Vermont
This cozy local favorite a half-hour outside of Burlington just installed a 125-foot turbine in the fall that produces one-eighth of the resort's electricity. Built and installed by local companies on a stretch of mountain ridge that had already been cleared, the turbine is the first to be erected by a Vermont ski area. Bolton hopes to put up two more, budget permitting. boltonvalley.com
2. Grand Targhee, Wyoming
Embedded within the Caribou-Targhee National Forest on the Teton Range, this low-key resort and its customers share a deep connection to their natural surroundings. All of the energy used for its chairlifts comes from wind or hydroelectric power, and the ski-school building generates its own electricity through a 660-watt solar panel array on the roof. Grand Targhee also recycles about 40 percent of its solid waste and uses biodiesel in its buses, trucks, and Snowcats. grandtarghee.com
1. Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado
Its commitment to a low carbon footprint is unquestioned--which should make all of those environmentalist Hollywood types who fly their private jets there for weekend getaways happy. Aspen plans to reduce emissions by ten percent in two years, and 25 percent in a decade. It built a massive solar panel array that generates enough power for 18 homes, developed a hydroelectric generator on a snowmaking pond that produces enough power for more than ten homes, constructed two LEED-certified buildings so far, and has promoted the construction of green hotels and condos at its new Snowmass base village. And, it's investigating adding wind turbines atop Snowmass Mountain. aspensnowmass.com