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More Ski Areas Trying to Reduce Carbon Footprint

| Sourced From Abcnews |

Ski resorts are getting greener, and they’re seeking recognition for it partly to boost their image with their environmentally conscious clientele. To educate the public and recognize the best programs, one grass-roots organization, the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, tracks the environmental impact and efforts of 82 ski areas in 11 Western states and has issued an annual report card each of the past 11 years.

The Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition’s most recent report card gave the highest marks to Squaw Valley USA in Lake Tahoe, Calif. At Squaw Valley, leftover energy from cooling a mountaintop ice rink heats a swimming pool and hot tub. Incinerators burn 99 percent of the waste from resort restaurants and create heat to warm buildings and walkways. The children’s center has a geothermal heat pump, and the lifts have sensors that cut back the power output on slow days.

“Our environmental initiatives are deeply ingrained within the company, so it’s really a part of every department and every employee here,” Squaw Valley’s Amelia Richmond said. “Basically, what separates us and the reason we’ve been able to do so well is that it’s an ownership, an accountability we feel here for our resort.”

No matter the effort, big or small, negating the environmental impact of a ski area isn’t easy. The carbon footprint of most resorts isn’t a pair of booties tiptoeing across the snow, but more like an entire battalion marching across the mountain. While some resorts have legitimate initiatives that really do help offset their carbon footprint, others put together look-what-we’re-doing lists that are little more than marketing campaigns.

The biggest impact comes from initial development or later expansion of the area: clearing trees, changing wildlife and vegetation habitats, altering watersheds. There’s so much more, though, from transportation for skiers to get there, maintenance of the mountain and facilities mowing in the summer, snowmaking and trail grooming in the winter, heating the buildings to the pollution created by the factories making the clothing and equipment used for skiing.

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