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Mile High Natural Awakenings

Sustainable Skiing: Eco-Practices Grow on Winter Slopes

Oct 31, 2019 07:30AM

Taras Hipp/Shutterstock.com

From mountain peaks to base lodges, many alpine ski resorts are working to reduce the environmental impact of their operations. Skiers will discover that sustainability is the watchword at a growing number of facilities, with a focus on reducing energy usage and cutting back on waste.

In Vermont, Killington Resort uses four offsite solar farms, as well as the AllEarth Solar tracking system that rotates panels using GPS technology to produce enough energy to run all the lifts for the resort and nearby Pico Mountain for the entire season. To prepare for this winter, Bromley Mountain upgraded its snowmaking system with state-of-the-art, variable-frequency drive motors to conserve energy. Stratton Mountain Resort will now offer drinking straws by request only and feature a bamboo option; retail shops have switched to bags made of 100 percent recycled paper.

Aspen Snowmass, in Colorado, has begun using a dirt-based pipe at its Buttermilk section to reduce snowmaking, saving more than $15,000 in electricity and 4 million gallons of water each year. Winter Park has installed a small wind turbine at the top of Parsenn Bowl to power its lift shack there. Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain and Purgatory are among the many resorts in the state that offer carpooling incentives for skiers.

After pledging in January to expand on energy-efficient operations, seven state ski trade associations—Ski Vermont, Colorado Ski Country USA, Ski Utah, Ski California, Ski Areas of New York, Ski New Mexico and the Pacific Northwest Ski Areas Association—along with 70-plus other organizations and companies of the Outdoor Business Climate Partnership gathered on Capitol Hill in May to “advocate for immediate and bipartisan climate action, specifically, putting a price on carbon”.

Families can forego the expenses, travel time and Earth impacts of alpine skiing by turning to the cross-country version. A few inches of snow and strapping on longer, thinner skis can transform a flat or gently hilly park, wooded trail or spacious backyard into a quiet, serene, eco-playground. “This low-impact exercise delivers amazing cardiovascular benefits, works all the major muscle groups, challenges your balance, keeps your joints healthy and is good for your mental health,”
according to Nordic Ski Colorado.
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