- National Wind Watch: Wind Energy News - https://www.wind-watch.org/news -

Green Power = Green Skiing? Not So Fast

Ski resorts buying green energy are more likely to harm rivers, streams and wetlands, destroy old growth forests and threaten wildlife, according to the new Ski Area Environmental Scorecard. The new Scorecard finds that while many ski resorts are thinking globally by purchasing green energy, they are not doing enough to protect the environment locally.

2006 has been a landmark year for “green” power within the ski industry, with 21 resorts nationwide now offsetting 100% of there energy use with renewable energy credits. But the trend is not as green as it might first appear.

Ski resorts taking the plunge on renewable energy seem to be those with the most aggressive and environmentally damaging development practices, according to the just released Scorecard. Each year, the Scorecard grades 77 ski resorts throughout the western United States. For each resort’s score and details on their environmental management practices, visit: www.skiareacitizens.com.

“Support for renewable energy is a positive step, but it does not appear to coincide with protecting local rivers and streams, wildlife and old growth forests,” explains Ben Doon, Research Director for the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition. “Some of the ski industry’s worst offenders when it comes to harming local waterways and destroying habitat for wildlife have been the first to jump on board with renewable energy programs.”

Of the 77 ski resorts examined in the Scorecard, 16 are offsetting 100% of their power with green energy (mostly wind), another 16 are buying some green energy, and the remaining 45 are buying none. On average, resorts using 100% green energy do 16% worse at protecting the local environment, compared to those that use no green energy. Although there are certainly exceptions amongst some of the industry’s environmental leaders, resorts buying green energy appear to be the worst offenders when it comes to protecting the local environment.

“Not all development is harmful to the environment,” said Doon. “Unlike the expansion and development projects undertaken by their peers, we find that these resorts are doing the most environmentally damaging types of development.”

“Buying green energy doesn’t make resorts exempt from protecting water quality, old growth forests, or wildlife,” said Autumn Bernstein, Land Use Coordinator for Sierra Nevada Alliance, a member of the coalition. “It is an important step toward addressing global warming, but many of these resorts also need to clean up their act when it comes to doing business in our national forests.”

“Despite all the hooplah about wind, its important to realize that 58% of western ski resorts are still not taking any action to cut their carbon emissions,” said Ryan Bidwell, Executive Director of Colorado Wild. “The take home message here is simple: the ski industry still has a lot of work to do to green up its act.”

The Ski Area Environmental Scorecard, published for the eighth consecutive year by the Ski Area Citizens’ Coalition, is the only independent review that gives skiers and snowboarders a way to assess the environmental performance of their favorite resorts. Resorts are scored on a comprehensive suite of criteria such as protection of old growth forests, alpine wildlife and water resources, along with proactive steps such as carpool programs, recycling and using green energy. More detailed descriptions can be found online at www.skiareacitizens.com.

We hope skiers and snowboarders will utilize this information when choosing where to spend their lift ticket dollars,” said Bernstein. “Perhaps even more importantly, if someone’s favorite resort ranks poorly in the Scorecard, we hope that they will ask them to clean up their act. Ski resorts listen to their customers.”

Skiers can also easily send emails to resorts through the website: www.skiareacitizens.com, encouraging resorts to improve their environmental policies and management. Scorecard data is obtained from an annual survey, public records from government agencies, and from the resorts themselves. Freedom of Information Act and Public Records Act requests are filed with appropriate land managers to identify ski area development projects and management plans. Resorts are also provided surveys and letters to collect information regarding their environmental programs.

For the full 2006-2007 Ski Area Scorecard visit www.skiareacitizens.com

By: Sierra Nevada Alliance