Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Ski areas slowly going green

The AP reported today that an increasing number of ski areas are using renewable energy and other measures to limit their contribution to global warming.

DENVER — Visitors to many ski areas this winter will find cleaner air and better views of mountain landscapes. Not only are ski resorts pushing legislation in Washington to combat global warming, at least 45 resorts in 14 states from coast to coast are using clean energy for some of their operations. Sixteen are getting 100 percent of their power from green energy sources including wind, hydroelectric, solar, biomass and geothermal.

“I think we’re a platform industry. We have a bully pulpit to operate from. When you think of global warming the first thing you think of is snowfall and wintertime and how that changes,” said Michael Berry, president of the National Ski Areas Association.

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit will spend $6 million on emission controls, said Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Association.

The industry is trying to show individuals that they can make a difference, said Berry. Colorado, which set a record for skier visits last year with 12.53 million skier days, will offer two new gondolas this year.

Breckenridge, the nation’s second-busiest ski resort, has built a gondola connecting the town’s transportation center off Main Street to Peak 7 and Peak 8. The eight-passenger facility, which can carry 3,000 passengers per hour, means fewer people riding buses to the mountain. The resort also has added the highest lift in the nation, the high-speed Imperial Express, which goes to 12,840 feet on the summit of Peak 8.

“It has already raised our profile. The thing the gondola does is connect a great historic mining town with one of the great ski areas of the world. You don’t get to build too many of them in your career. The Imperial Express on the top and the gondola on the bottom are two great bookends,” said Roger McCarthy, Breckenridge chief executive officer.

Since these industries rely on climate, it makes sense they would try to lead the way toward curtailing greenhouse gasses.

Here's some other things that would help.

Lobby for the I-70 monorail: It failed with voters once. When the idea comes around again, backing from ski companies and their surrounding communities might push it over the top. If it passes, it could take thousands of cars off the road.

Biodiesel for all snowcats and buses.

Push the ski season back four weeks: Big ski resorts spend hundreds of thousands of dollars - and serious kilowats - making snow, which mother nature usually makes anyway. If everyone opened a few weeks later the energy savings would be huge. Don't think this one is going to happen - ski resorts rely too heavily on Thanksgiving traffic - but it would provide serious ecological benefits.

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