The Ski Area Citizens' Coalition, a grassroots organization that tracks the environmental impact and effort of 82 ski areas, has issued its 2011 report card. Resorts were graded in four areas: habitat protection, watershed protection, addressing climate change, and environmental practices and policies.
The good news is that overall ski resort grades have improved 2% this year, and have improved each of the last four years. The highest rated resort? Squaw Valley in Lake Tahoe, where environmentally friendly practices include using leftover energy from cooling an ice rink to heat swimming pools and hot tubs, incinerating 99% of the resort's waste and using the energy to heat buildings, geothermal heat pumps, and sensors that cut lift power on slow days.
Developing a resort means cutting trees and changing wildlife patterns and watersheds. Getting snow enthusiasts to the resorts uses a lot of petroleum, as does the maintenance of the trails during summer and winter. Even the production of ski equipment and clothing is energy intensive. It all adds up to a winter sport that involves plenty of carbon pollution, and that's why efforts to green the resorts should be applauded. Especially since most skiers probably consider themselves to be environmentalists.
Photo: A skier carves a turn in Squaw Valley. (Jeff Engerbertson)